South Dakota governor calls the Sturgis rally with hundreds of thousands of attendees ‘a fantastic event’ as COVID-19 cases spike

Motorcycles seen on the streets of Sturgis, South Dakota on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began
Motorcycles fill the streets of Sturgis, S.D on August 6, 2021 as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began Stephen Groves/AP
  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem called the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally “a fantastic event.”
  • The rally, which ends Sunday, is expected to attract 700,000 attendees.
  • Health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci are concerned the Sturgis rally will make new cases counts spike even higher.
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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem praised the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that attracted hundreds of thousands of people, calling it “a fantastic event” as the Delta variant spreads across the state.

“I think it’s interesting that this side, this political party, the Democrats, who embrace getting abortion on demand, are accusing us of embracing death when we’re just allowing people to make personal choices and have personal responsibility over when they want to assemble, when they want to gather and spend time outdoors enjoying their way of life,” Noem said on Friday in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.

“So we’ve had a fantastic event here in South Dakota,” she said. “They’re having a fantastic time. We’re glad everybody made the trip to South Dakota.”

The 10-day rally is set to end Sunday.

Meanwhile, the highly transmissable Delta variant continues to spread across the US alongside a spike in new cases reported in South Dakota, which has been adding hundreds of new cases per week over the last month.

About 49% of the state’s total population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

That puts South Dakota on about the same level as the United States as a whole. About 51% of all US individuals are fully vaccinated, JHU data show.

But these hundreds of thousands of bikers are coming from all over the country. And this year, about 700,000 bikers are expected to attend the rally, according to the Washington Post.

Health officials like the nation’s topmost coronavirus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have previously expressed concern over the Sturgis rally.

“I mean, to me, it’s understandable that people want to do the kinds of things they want to do. They want their freedom to do that,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But there comes a time when you’re dealing with a public health crisis that could involve you, your family and everyone else that something supersedes that need to do exactly what you want to do.”

Last year, more than 450,000 people visited South Dakota to participate in the biker festival, at least 649 cases were found to have been linked to the Sturgis rally. The true number is likely to be much higher, as contact tracing proved difficult once all the bikers returned to their home states. Research published a month after the rally found that as much as hundreds of thousands of new COVID-19 cases could be linked back to the event.

Like last year, there’s no mask mandate in place for the event this year, a spokesperson for the city of Sturgis told the Washington Post. But there will be free testing, masks, and hand sanitizer available for participants.