Meade County sees 250% surge in COVID-19 cases after motorcycle rally

In just nearly a month, Meade County saw a 250% rise in coronavirus cases. Is it due to the Rally?
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 6:43 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - As coronavirus cases continue to rise, people are watching Meade county’s numbers a little more closely. But is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally really to blame?

On the first day of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Meade County had 87 positive coronavirus cases. As of Tuesday, the county stands at 305 cases.

“I think it was predictable the Rally was there,” Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board Emergency Manager Annie Lloyd said.

But the Sturgis City Manager said the Rally is not the main reason for the increase.

“So even though there was an increase, that increase seems to have slowed down significantly here in the last couple of days,” Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said.

Ainslie said coronavirus cases were on the rise before the Rally started. Additionally, Sturgis does not solely comprise Meade County and regardless, the 250% increase in Meade County is concerning to Shankar Kurra.

“My biggest fear is if the numbers keep rising then that will lead to hospitalizations,” Monument Health VP of Medical Affairs Kurra said. “Then that will lead to morbidity and mortality and we know those are lagging indicators. They come back later, you only know the deaths after a month or so.”

Kurra added though Monument Health is prepared for a surge in coronavirus cases, he is worried more hospitalizations will overwhelm the intensive care units.

Ainslie said, “the city truly was not excited about hosting the Rally” as the City Council was leaning against it because of the potential spread of the virus.

But he said if they did not prepare for the influx of people, there would have been more chaos.

“Our ambulance services ran easily five to seven times more calls. So if we wouldn’t have had the additional crews here. We literally would have had people who would have died from heart attacks and strokes, that we would have not been able to provide service to them that was needed.”

Ainslie added extra workers were needed to clean the streets from the 444 tons of accumulated trash along with more law enforcement officers to apprehend a group of vandals that came from the northwest.

Seven other surrounding states reported positive cases in relation to the Rally, so are we too late in limiting the spread?

“We are definitely not too late,” Creekside Medical Clinic Dr. Nancy Babbitt said. “People can be more powerful than this virus if they choose to be.”

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