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Study authors who claimed BLM protests safe now claim 266,000 possible infections from Sturgis rally

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Nearly a month after the end of the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, one study is claiming that the rally could cause up to 266,000 cases of coronavirus despite an infection count of only 300 cases so far. Previously, in a widely-panned study, the same group of social scientists said that Black Lives Matters protests had no impact on the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.  

“The report from San Diego State University’s Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies used anonymized cellphone location data and virus case counts to analyze the impact of the 460,000-person event that took place last month, believed to be one of the largest events held during the pandemic,” says the Washington Post of the Sturgis event.

The study also says that the public health cost of the Sturgis event is $12.2 billion.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), home to the Sturgis rally, blasted the report and the journalists who take it seriously.

“Under the guise of academic research, this report is nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom to attend Sturgis,” Noem said in a statement, according to USA Today. “Predictably, some in the media breathlessly report on this non-peer-reviewed model, built on incredibly faulty assumptions that do not reflect the actual facts and data here in South Dakota.” 

Previous to the release of the study, NPR had reported 260 linked to people who traveled to the Sturgis event, with one death.

But now public health experts are excited to link Sturgis to a massive outbreak of COVID.

“The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may account for 19 percent of US COVID-19 cases in August,” writes Popular Science.

Actually, it may be that the virus is just going to places that haven’t been exposed previously.

“It was only a matter of time,” says Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University told Time. “Essentially, we’re playing Whac-A-Mole. One part of the country is a hotspot. We’re able to suppress that. But that wave then moves to a different part of the country.”

As Time’s own database shows, the virus has been retreating significantly in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska over the last seven days.

South Dakota reported 156 cases on August 16 as the Sturgis rally started with a peak of 650 cases two weeks ago and reported 103 cases on September 8.

The spike probably has more to do with students returning to college than it does the rally.

“The state has reported 552 cases linked to its public universities and technical colleges, and another 195 cases among students and staff in public schools. At least 118 South Dakota residents who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August have also tested positive for COVID-19,” reported the Associated Press last week.

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