The 460,000 bikers who gathered in South Dakota in August and indifferent to the pandemic led to a total of 260,000 new cases of COVID-19, researchers say in a study released Tuesday.
This figure, not independently confirmed, would make this ten-day gathering, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the largest event of the spread of the coronavirus documented to date in the United States.
The study, conducted by economists at the University of San Diego and published by the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), is a statistical approximation based on anonymized mobility data from cell phones in and around the small town. of Sturgis, a sparsely populated rural area invaded every year by an army of bikers.
These data confirmed the number of people who came to camp, go out, drink, eat and listen to concerts, mostly without a mask, during the 80th edition of the rally, from August 7 to 16. They also highlighted the regions of origin of the bikers.
By comparing these geographic data to the official figures of COVID-19 cases during the month of August, the researchers estimated the wave of contagions born in Sturgis and having spread throughout the country: 266,796 new cases, or 19 % of the 1.4 million cases detected in the United States between August 2 and September 2, at an economic cost of $ 12.2 billion, based on a study that estimated each non-fatal case at 46,000 dollars.
In South Dakota alone, the number of cases jumped over the summer, from around 100 new cases per day in early August to 300 in late August, according to the Covid Tracking Project, but the death toll has remained very low (one death per day on average).
This statistical analysis can only be an approximation, since no one has tracked and tested each rider individually. Also, it has not been published by a peer-reviewed scientific journal, so no independent scientist has evaluated the methodology. Finally, the number of cases also increased across the Midwest over the summer, not just in South Dakota.