State epidemiologist: COVID-19 risks at Sturgis Rally similar to those at backyard picnic with multiple people

KELOLAND.com Original

This article has been revised to reflect the following: Clarification on the size of the picnic used in the comparison.

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Attendees at the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally face similar coronavirus transmission risks as attendees at a backyard picnic with multiple people, South Dakota Department of Health epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton said during an Aug. 6 news briefing.

Dr. Josh Clayton

“Anytime that you are bringing people together, especially if you are bringing together individuals from areas that might have higher risk of COVID-19 in their general communities…that does pose a risk for COVID-19 transmission…that’s regardless of Sturgis Rally or somebody’s backyard picnic that they might have over a weekend,” Clayton said.

Individuals need to take proper precautions in all those circumstances and consider what they would do individually and if they want to attend those events, Clayton said.

Individuals need to differentiate the magnitude of risks between a backyard picnic of three people versus a picnic with 300 people or a rally with several hundred thousand people, Clayton said.

A crowd of 250,000 people is expected for this year’s rally, according to the Associated Press. That would be half the size of crowds in two prior years when attendance hit about 490,000 in 2019 and 495,000 in 2018.

KELOLAND News asked if Clayton or DOH director Kim Malsam-Rysdon would attend the rally and what advice they’d give to potential attendees.

Malsam-Rysdon said she would not attend the rally but that some DOH employees would be there to help with water testing and other duties. The DOH employees would not be conducting COVID-19 tests. That would be handled by the city of Sturgis after the rally, she said.

Malsam-Rysdon said DOH employees would be maintaining proper social distancing when able, wearing masks and personal protection equipment as needed and paying attention to hygiene and similar actions.

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