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Report estimates Sturgis Rally is responsible for $12.2B in healthcare costs, state officials disagree

The main takeaways of the report link the Rally to 267,000 COVID-19 cases nationwide and say the overall health costs from the rally are $12.2 billion.
Packed Downtown Sturgis during the Rally.
Packed Downtown Sturgis during the Rally.(Anderley Penwell)
Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 1:27 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - A white paper released by four economic professors with the IZA Institue of Labor Economics says the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was a superspreader event, leading to a national spike in COVID-19 cases that cost billions in healthcare dollars.

The report gathered its results by using cellphone data from SafeGraph, Inc. It shoed “smartphone pings from nonresidents” and “foot traffic at restaurants and bars, retail establishments and entertainment venues, hotels and campgrounds each rose substantially" through Aug. 7 through 16.

The main takeaways of the report link the Rally to an estimated 267,000 COVID-19 cases nationwide and say the overall health costs from the rally are $12.2 billion.

The $12.2 billion costs are based on another estimation that $46,000 is spent per positive COVID-19 case, the nonprofit research institute found.

However, South Dakota Health officials dismissed the 63-page report from IZA in today’s state COVID-19 media briefing. Gov. Kristi Noem has also chimed in and disagreed with the report.

“From what we know the results do not align with what we know,” state epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said.

He mentioned that a white paper isn’t peer-reviewed. And pointed out the paper doesn’t note schools in the state also reopened close after the Rally ended, which could have attributed to the surge of cases in South Dakota.

Addressing costs, Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said they want to “better understand the source they are using” to come up with the $12.2 billion healthcare total.

Additionally, she 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.

The state is tracking primary infections only, unlike the study that mentions secondary infections.

Clayton mentioned in the call that in-state there have been 124 cases linked to the Rally from South Dakota residents.

Health officials confirmed 105 new cases Tuesday, bringing total known cases in the state to 15,403. However, active cases fell by over 200 to 2,679 due to new recoveries.

Copyright 2020 KOTA. All rights reserved.

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