You may recall that last month, Smash Mouth played a motorcycle rally in South Dakota, with frontman Steve Harwell declaring “fuck that COVID shit” to a packed crowd.
The 10-day rally drew some 460,000 patrons, many of whom did not wear face masks, observe social distancing measures or self-isolate following the event. While it seemed fairly obvious from the start that a large-scale event wasn’t a great idea in the middle of a global pandemic, we now have some evidence.
As Consequence of Sound reports, according to a new study by health economists Dhaval Dave, Andrew Friedson, Drew McNichols, and Joe Sabia, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally contributed to 263,708 new cases of COVID-19 and cost $12 billion in new medical care.
“The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the ‘worst case scenarios’ for superspreading occurred simultaneously,” reads the report.
“First, using anonymized cell phone data from SafeGraph, Inc. we document that (i) smartphone pings from non-residents, and (ii) foot traffic at restaurants and bars, retail establishments, entertainment venues, hotels and campgrounds each rose substantially in the census block groups hosting Sturgis rally events.
“Stay-at-home behavior among local residents, as measured by median hours spent at home, fell. Second, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a synthetic control approach, we show that by September 2, a month following the onset of the Rally, COVID-19 cases increased by approximately 6 to 7 cases per 1,000 population in its home county of Meade.
“Finally, difference-in-differences (dose response) estimates show that following the Sturgis event, counties that contributed the highest inflows of rally attendees experienced a 7.0 to 12.5 percent increase in COVID-19 cases relative to counties that did not contribute inflows.”
The economists say they were able to document national spread due to the motorcycle rally, saying that in counties with the largest relative inflow to the event, the per 1000 case rate rose by 10.7% in the 24 days following the onset of Sturgis pre-rally events. In counties with the largest relative inflow to the event, the per 1,000 case rate increased by 10.7 percent after 24 days following the onset of Sturgis Pre-Rally Events.
“Multiplying the percent case increases for the high, moderate-high and moderate inflow counties by each county’s respective pre-rally cumulative COVID-19 cases and aggregating, yields a total of 263,708 additional cases in these locations due to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.”
The report goes on to say that if we assume each case was non-fatal, they represent a medical cost of over $12.2 billion. “This is enough to have paid each of the estimated 462,182 rally attendees $26,553.64 not to attend.”
You can read the report in full here.