Years from now, historians will be debating what horror perpetrated by Señor Trumpanzee's is his most enduring legacy. For any of the relatives of the 655,388 people who died from COVID, that legacy is already set in stone. His grotesquely self-centered mishandling of the pandemic is what lost him the election. He deserves worse than that. And the Trump wannabes like Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Greg Abbott (R-TX) and Kristi Noem (R-SD) are in some ways as culpable as he is, especially now, when their policies are needlessly infecting and killing large numbers of people.
As widely predicted-- and ignored by Noem-- the motorcycle rally in Sturgis is once again causing serious surges, and, unfortunately, not just in South Dakota. L.A. Times writer Stephen Groves reported this morning that at least 178 rallygoers in 5 status are down for the count with COVID infections already.
Groves wrote that "In the three weeks since the annual rally kicked off, coronavirus cases in South Dakota have shot up at a startling pace-- six-fold from the early days of August. While it is not clear how much rallygoers spread the coronavirus through secondary infections, state health officials have so far reported 63 cases among South Dakota residents who attended the event. The nucleus of the rally, Meade County, is brimming with new cases, reaching a per-capita rate similar to that of the hardest-hit Southern states now dealing with a COVID-19 surge. The county reported the highest rate of cases in South Dakota over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers."
The Black Hills region’s largest hospital system, Monument Health, warned Friday that it has seen hospitalizations from the coronavirus rise from five to 78 this month. The hospital was bracing for more COVID-19 patients by converting rooms to intensive care units and reassigning staff.
Virus cases were already on the rise when the rally started, and it’s difficult to measure just how much the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is to blame in a region where local fairs, youth sports leagues and other gatherings have resumed.
However, Meade County could be a harbinger for the upper Midwest as infections ripple from those events, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
“This coronavirus forest fire will keep burning any human wood it can find,” he said. “It will find you, and it’s so infectious.”
Health officials in North Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin all reported cases among people who attended the rally, with North Dakota also reporting two hospitalizations. Some health officials noted that people could have caught the virus elsewhere.
A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that last year’s rally looked like a superspreader event. The team said the event offered a lesson: Such large gatherings can result in “widespread transmission” of infections, and attendees should follow precautions such as getting vaccinated, wearing masks and social distancing.
The aftermath of this year’s rally looks eerily similar to last year-- when the event heralded a wave that did not subside until the winter.
But the full fallout from the rally won’t be seen for weeks, and an exact case count will likely remain unknown, Osterholm said.
Daniel Bucheli, a spokesman for the South Dakota Department of Health, said the coronavirus spike was following “a national trend being experienced in every state, not just South Dakota.”
...Despite the more contagious Delta variant, this year’s motorcycle rally was even bigger than last year. More than 500,000 people showed up during the 10-day rally.
The streets of Sturgis filled with rallygoers drawn to South Dakota’s more libertarian attitude-- motorcycle helmets weren’t required, minimal attire and bodypainting were welcome, and masks were often nowhere in sight. Bikers bellied up to bars and packed into rock shows.
Two bands that performed at the rally have canceled shows after musicians came down with the coronavirus. Corey Taylor, the lead singer of Slipknot, who had embarked on a solo tour, told fans he was “very, very sick” from COVID-19, though he did not say where he contracted it.
“This is the worst I’ve ever been sick in my life,” Taylor said in a Facebook video this week. “Had I not been vaccinated, I shudder to think how bad it would have been.”
49% of South Dakotans are fully vaccinated. But not all counties are equally. In Meade County (Sturgis), only 39% have been vaccinated. These are the 10 counties that voted most heavily for Trump-- along with their vaccination rates:
Harding Co.- 92.0% Trump (14% fully vaccinated)
Haakon Co.- 90.2% Trump (26% fully vaccinated)
Douglas Co.- 86.0% Trump (32% fully vaccinated)
Campbell Co.- 85.6% Trump (26% fully vaccinated)
Perkins Co.- 83.9% Trump (22% fully vaccinated)
Jones Co.- 83.1% Trump (48% fully vaccinated)
Potter Co.- 82.5% Trump (42% fully vaccinated)
Faulk Co.- 81.6% Trump (42% fully vaccinated)
McPherson Co.- 81.2% Trump (10% fully vaccinated)
Tripp Co.- 80.2% Trump (28% fully vaccinated)
Still... as Chip Proser reminded me today, there is always this: