A white paper by four economics professors with the IZA Institute of Labor Economics says the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was a superspreader event for COVID-19 that cost billions in healthcare dollars, but Gov Kristi Noem and other South Dakota officials are blasting the report as fiction based on “incredibly faulty assumptions.”
The professors used cellphone data from SafeGraph Inc to track where non-resident Rally participants went, concluding the visitors led to a national spike of 267,000 new COVID-19 cases nationwide, costing $12.2 billion dollars in treatment,. based on another estimate that $46,000 is spent per positive COVID-19 case.
Gov Noem calls the report “fiction” and says that, “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, who’s gained nationwide attention and growing conservating support for following President Trump’s lead on dealing with COVID-19, also blames the media – saying “predictably, some breathlessly report on this nonpeer-reviewed model, built on assumptions that do not reflect the actual facts and data here in South Dakota.”
She points out that academic modeling predicted the state would have 10,000 hospitalized COVID patients at the peak, while in reality there are now less than 70 – adding that she “(looks) forward to good journalists, credible academics, and honest citizens repudiating this nonsense.”
South Dakota state epidemiologist Joshua Clayton is more restrained, saying simply that “From what we know, the results do not align with what we know.” He also says the surge in cases in South Dakota may have been from the start of school.
State Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says people “shouldn’t put too much stock into models” and that using cell phone pings to project COVID-19 cases isn’t an accurate correlation.
She also points out that the state is tracking primary infections only, unlike the study – which also mentions secondary infections.