SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — People in South Dakota returned to bars in early August during the pandemic at a rate higher than in non-COVID-19 2019, according to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.
The Minneapolis Federal Reserve covers the Ninth District which includes South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Its COVID-19 and the Ninth District Academy dashboard posts information about mobility in the district and other economic data.
On Saturday, Aug. 15, foot traffic in bars increased by 121% over the same time in 2019, according to the Federal Reserve. The dates cover a seven-day rolling average.The data indicates traffic but not spending. The data is provided by SafeGraph, a company that uses mobile devices to gather and distribute data.
A few days before Monday, Aug. 10, foot traffic in bars was 26% lower than in 2019. On Thursday, Aug. 8, foot traffic was down by 10% but increased by 14% the next day. Foot traffic in bars was at least 59% higher from Aug. 12 through Aug. 19. By Friday, Aug. 28, the increase had declined to 18%.
North Dakota had a 6% increase in foot traffic at bars on Aug. 30. It was the only other state in the Ninth District besides South Dakota to post an increase over last year in August, according to the Federal Reserve data.
The August spike is extreme because from March 1 until about Aug. 10, traffic in bars was behind 2019’s numbers, according to the Federal Reserve.
The increase in foot traffic in bar came as public and private universities and colleges started in the state.
The increases also came during the dates for this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which was Aug. 7 through Aug. 16 this year. The highest increase in bar foot traffic were during the Aug. 14-17 weekend, according to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation said the preliminary traffic count for the Sturgis Rally was 462,182 at nine entry points, which is about 37,000 fewer than 2019’s count.
All six public four-year universities started on Aug. 19. Augustana University started classes on Aug. 26. The University of Sioux Falls started classes on Aug. 20.
Bars and similar establishments have been the focus of several health experts in neighboring states and cities within South Dakota. As COVID-19 cases increased in young adults, such as college-aged students, Gov. Kim Reynolds closed bars in six counties in Iowa on Aug. 27. Iowa’s public universities are located in three of those counties.
The city of Brookings on Sept. 8 passed a mask requirement ordinance that includes bars in response to an increased level of COVID-19 transmission in Brookings County. The DOH lists the county as having substantial community spread.
“We’re definitely seeing increasing cases in the 5-17 age, or K-12 school age range and in the 18-22 college age range,” DOH epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said in a Sept. 10 news briefing.
From the end of July through the fourth week in August, COVID-19 cases increased by 600 in the 18-22 age range, Clayton said.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was Aug. 2-11 in 2019. Bar foot traffic count was down from Aug. 1 through Aug. 8 this year from the same time in 2019 but increased by increased by 14% on Aug. 9, 40% on Aug. 10 and 43% on Aug. 11.
South Dakota leads all of the Ninth District states in foot traffic at bars, sit-down restaurants, malls and hotels. Only Montana posted an increase over last year in hotel traffic but it was well below South Dakota.
While foot traffic increased in bars, it also increased at sit-down restaurants to levels higher than in 2019 in part of August.
Foot traffic in sit-down restaurants in the state increased by 32% over 2019 on Aug. 14.
Traffic also increased at retail and recreation sites during that August period.
The retail and recreation traffic is compared to the median day value from a five-week period from Jan. 3 to Feb. 6, 2020. This is the baseline.
Compared to the baseline, traffic at retail and recreation locations increased by 29% on Aug. 13. The uptick dipped some by Sept. 3 (14%) but according to Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Sept. 6 report for South Dakota, retail and recreation traffic increased by 32% over the baseline.
People have also gone to the grocery store and/or pharmacy more in South Dakota than in the other Ninth District states.
The Google Mobility report for Sept. 6 said grocery store and pharmacy traffic was up 36% over the baseline.
Aug. 14 was a big traffic day in the grocery store in South Dakota.
The Federal Reserve said there was a 46% increase in the rolling five-day traffic in grocery stores on Aug. 14. In comparison, Montana had a 25% increase, North Dakota had a 3% increase and Wisconsin a 7% increase. Minnesota had a decrease of 1% driven in part by the 17% decrease in Minneapolis.
South Dakota is also one of the top states for new COVID-19 cases per capita. According to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker on Sept. 11, the state had 169 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000. North Dakota has more cases per capita with 238.
The Sept. 6 report from the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, released in an ABC News report, said South Dakota had the second highest rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the nation.
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