Thousands Expected at South Dakota Motorcycle Rally Despite Coronavirus Concerns

Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

On Friday, roughly 250,000 motorcycle enthusiasts are expected to converge in Sturgis, South Dakota, concerning local officials during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We cannot stop people from coming,” Mayor Mark Carstensen told CNN on Thursday, expressing concern about the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. Carstensen believes the only real thing the small 7,000-person city can do is try to encourage “personal responsibility” from attendees.

Sturgis is known as the “City of Riders” in tribute to the annual 10-day motorcycle event. The rally is one of the biggest of its kind in the world and draws people from across the United States. And despite the mayor’s worries, city council members voted eight to one against canceling the 80-year tradition in 2020.

The city’s rally has traditionally benefited the city and state at large — something South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem said in a statement encouraging the event. “We hope people come,” Noem said. “Our economy benefits when people come and visit us.”

Mayor Carstensen stressed that the city will deliver any needed supplies to concerned Sturgis residents, though there will be no quarantine recommendations for attendees. He said leaders are just “hoping people make the right choices.”

South Dakota State Medical Association president Benjamin Aaker said he was worried, but maintained that the rally would be safe so long as people followed recommendations for social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks.

“We’re the physicians to the state of South Dakota,” Aaker told CNN, “much like the physician is to the person that comes in to see him or her, and we make recommendations.”


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