Minnesota professor says Sturgis Rally will fuel nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (KELO) — While the Sturgis Rally ended nearly two weeks ago, a University of Minnesota professor and epidemiologist says the annual motorcycle gathering in South Dakota will continue to contribute to higher COVID-19 case counts nationwide. 

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the COVID-19 pandemic is currently in another “pause” nationwide. He said in the next three to four weeks, total new cases will start to climb again across the country. 

One reason for another steady rise in cases, Osterholm believes, is because of the Sturgis Rally. He addresses his concerns with the Sturgis Rally as well as college campuses in a podcast released by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota on Friday. 

Osterholm says on the podcast there are “big differences” in the science of COVID-19 transmission between the large Black Lives Matter protests in late May and early June and the Sturgis Rally, which took place Aug. 7-16. 

“At Sturgis, there are many bar-related outbreaks and tattoo parlor-related outbreaks. A number of different indoor locations were visited,” Osterholm said on the podcast. “We’re now seeing these cases pour back out across the United States.”  

For the protests, which were held mostly outside, Osterholm said the air was able to help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

“We didn’t see a big increase of cases there,” Osterholm said. 

Osterholm cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying more than half of the counties in America were represented in some way at the Sturgis Rally.  

“We’ve already seen outbreaks here, in Minnesota. Small clusters of cases, that actually started in its first instance with an individual from Sturgis who came back infected, who then transmitted the virus on to others,” Osterholm said. “I think you’re going to see that number grow substantially. That by itself will not drive a big, new national outbreak but it’ll sure contribute to that issue.” 

Osterholm called on people who went to Sturgis to get tested. 

“I would urge them to get tested although I know many of them don’t believe they need to get tested,” Osterholm said.

On Thursday, the City of Sturgis announced results from a mass testing event which showed 26 positive cases of COVID-19 from 650 people tested.

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