Instead of attempting to cancel the event, they prepared by organising grocery delivery services for at-risk residents, establishing hand-washing stations, and giving away free masks to those who wanted them, City Manager Daniel Ainslie told Insider
The city cancelled nearly all of its daily events in an effort to prevent the dense crowds that normally gather at them.
The hospital increased staffing among other extensive preparations, anticipating an increase in emergency room visits. By the time the rally started on August 7, the Meade County had only seen around 80 coronavirus cases.
Mark Schulte, president of the local Monument Health Sturgis Hospital, told Insider that if the event did turn out to cause a spike in cases, the providers were ready to offer care.
Outside of these efforts, Ainslie said the city’s hands were tied in terms of putting mask or social distancing mandates in place. Those requirements must be ordered by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.
Noem, a Republican, has been vocally opposed to stay-at-home orders. As for masks, Noem discourages their use, even at schools which she has pushed to reopen.
As thousands poured into Sturgis over its opening weekend, few donned face masks.
At the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, it is like the novel coronavirus – which has killed more than 744,000 people around the world – didn’t exist.
Here are photos from this year’s event.
Every year up to three quarters of a million bikers ride through the scenic Black Hills to Sturgis, South Dakota, for its annual motorcycle rally.
On their way, visitors might visit Bad Lands National Park, Mount Rushmore, or the nearby Native American reservations. This year, though, the Cheyenne River Tribe asked those travelling to Sturgis not to cross through the reservation in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
When they arrived in Sturgis, bikers and tourists packed bars and visited shops. They also participated in outdoor contests like bikini modelling, “Beers and Burps,” air sex events, cherry pie eating, and fake orgasm competitions.
Many at the rally opted to go maskless, despite advice from local officials who hung signs around the small city.
With temperatures in the 90s, hanging out in the sun all day can make for sweaty leather.
Some bikers at the rally said they enjoyed the freedom of coming together in groups, something that many states had prohibited over the last few months.
The city of Sturgis cancelled the daily events it would have otherwise held in order to discourage crowding. It didn’t seem to help.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attracts many supporters of President Donald Trump.
Bikers felt the breeze as they rode around the city, some of them topless.
Some attendees opted not to wear masks, even when social distancing wasn’t an option. A few of them reported that they were subjected to scoffs or dirty looks when they did.
Business owners in Sturgis and surrounding towns depend on the revenue that the annual event generates.
Some vendors took advantage of the unfortunate timing of the event by selling coronavirus-themed swag.
Confederate flags have been targeted and removed during the ongoing “racial reckoning” and related anti-racism protests around the US. But they were plentiful at the Sturgis Rally.
Visitors enjoy the Americana vibes at the event each year.
A week after the rally ends on August 16, the city of Sturgis and the local hospital will host mass coronavirus testing to see if, and how, the virus had spread.