Report: 266K US COVID cases traced to Sturgis; WI bikers 'don't believe it'

The annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota draws hundreds of thousands each year -- even during the pandemic. The August event is now being called a "super spreader" of coronavirus, but some bikers say they don't believe the study.

It's a shocking, if not unbelievable study centering around the 2020 motorcycle rally in Sturgis.  According to researchers at San Diego State University's Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies, the 10-day event revved up the country's coronavirus cases in a big way.

Report: 266K US COVID cases traced to Sturgis

Researchers say 19% of the country's 1.4 million new coronavirus cases during the month of August can be traced back to Sturgis.  The report goes even further, saying Sturgis generated public health costs of $12.2 billion -- enough, researchers say, to have paid every rally attendee $26,000 dollars to stay home.

Tony Sanfelipo

Tony Sanfelipo

"Is it irresponsible?  Um, I don't know if it's that irresponsible if everyone practices safe distancing and enjoys themselves," said Tony Sanfelipo, biker from Mukwonago.

FOX6 News spoke with several Wisconsinites at Sturgis last month. Now back home, they just don't think the numbers add up.

Vicki Sanfelipo

Vicki Sanfelipo

"I just don't believe it," said Vicki Sanfelipo. "This is coming from someone who's been to Sturgis every year, and someone who's a nurse."

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said only "26 people statewide who tested positive for COVID-19 reported being at Sturgis." Two of them were hospitalized.  We're told they all reported other possible exposures in addition to attending the event.

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, South Dakota's governor also slammed the report, saying it, "Isn't science; it's fiction. This report is nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom to attend Sturgis."

Researchers say 266,000 across the country got coronavirus at Sturgis.  That's enough to fill Miller Park six times.  


103 reported cases: Health officials in 8 states, including WI, track COVID-19 after Sturgis

From the city of Sturgis, which is conducting mass testing for its roughly 7,000 residents, to health departments in at least eight states, health officials are trying to track outbreaks from the 10-day rally which ended on Aug. 16.


Revved by Sturgis Rally, COVID-19 infections move fast, far

An analysis of anonymous cell phone data from Camber Systems, a firm that aggregates cell phone activity for health researchers, found that 61% of all the counties in the U.S. have been visited by someone who attended Sturgis, creating a travel hub that was comparable to a major U.S. city.


'It feels weird:' Wisconsinites hope to steer clear of COVID-19 at Sturgis

The event is one of the largest in the country and celebrating its 80th year -- drawing an estimated crowd of 250,000 from coast to coast. Masks are encouraged, but not required.