SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been eight days since the official end of the 2021 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. 

And the home county for the annual motorcycle rally is seeing the highest percent of PCR COVID-19 tests come back positive in the state of South Dakota. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, Meade County has a weekly test-positivity rate of 36.1%. That means more than one out of every three COVID-19 tests are coming back positive in Meade County. 

That’s the highest amount for any county in South Dakota dealing with more than 10 new COVID-19 cases.

Meade County is listed as having the highest weekly test-positivity rate for counties dealing with more than 10 new COVID-19 cases.

The DOH says the weekly test-positivity rate is updated every Monday based on the number of new PCR tests from the previous week (Sunday through Saturday). 

Along with a high weekly test-positivity rate, the number of active COVID-19 cases in Meade County increased from 24 on Aug. 4 to 235 on Aug. 23.  

According to the 2020 Census, Meade County is home to a population of 29,852 people. The DOH is reporting 7,901 persons in Meade County are vaccinated, but any vaccine doses from Indian Health Services and Veterans Affairs are not included. That’s a vaccination rate of 26%. 

The South Dakota Department of Transportation counted 525,768 vehicles at nine different locations near Sturgis in Meade County Aug. 6 through Aug. 15.

In neighboring Pennington County, the weekly test-positivity rate is 23.2%. On Aug. 4, Pennington County had 139 active cases and there’s now 589 active cases. You can view the data in the graph below. 

Active cases statewide have increased from 657 on Aug. 4 to 2,589 on Aug. 23, an increase of more than 290%.

Compared to the same time in 2020, the increase was not as drastic. Active cases were higher on Aug. 4 at 935 in 2020 but increased to 1,551 by Aug. 23, 2020. That was an increase of 66%. 

Officials at Monument Health told KELOLAND News they expected a rise in COVID-19 cases in the Black Hills following the Sturgis Rally. Dr. Shankar Kurra cited the more contagious Delta variant and a large percentage of unvaccinated people.

Dr. Kurra also said “unfortunately” part of the unvaccinated group are children under the age of 12. He said because kids under 12 can’t receive the COVID-19 vaccine more adults should consider becoming vaccinated.

“We need to get folks between the ages of 12 and all the way up to 50 to become vaccinated,” Dr. Kurra said. “That’s what’s holding us back.”  

DOH officials contact tracing Sturgis Rally cases

In September 2020, the South Dakota Department of Health reported 124 South Dakota residents attended the Sturgis Rally before becoming ill with COVID-19.

This year, a similar report will be made available when finished, DOH spokesman Daniel Bucheli confirmed to KELOLAND News.  

“With any event of this size and different partners involved, this may take some time as we want to ensure the accuracy of such case reporting,” Bucheli said in a statement during the Sturgis Rally.