The town of Sturgis, South Dakota is about to swell its capacity for a week starting this Friday. Despite the global coronavirus pandemic which has killed nearly 700,000 people worldwide as of this writing, the famed Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will go on as planned. The town’s population of around 7,000 will swell by an expected 250,000 bikers this week. The steady stream of thumping V-twins has already started, and it will continue unabated until August 16th.
With an estimated quarter million participants, the 80th Sturgis promises to be certainly among the largest public event held since the pandemic began, if not the largest. In a normal year the rally would expect to host nearly half a million bikers, but conservative estimates see that number halving.
South Dakota residents, despite the state never having locked down at all, are rightfully worried that the influx of riders from all around the country are going to bring an unmanageable coronavirus outbreak to the rural region. More than 60 percent of the town’s residents were in favor of postponing the rally out of fear for the virus, but the City Council ruled in favor of local businesses and the city’s large tax haul.
“This is a huge, foolish mistake to make to host the rally this year,” Sturgis resident Linda Chaplin told city counselors, reported by the Associated Press. “The government of Sturgis needs to care most for its citizens.”
I truly hope that I am wrong and that everyone in attendance keeps a 6-foot buffer zone and wraps an old bandana around their nose and mouth. I truly hope nobody catches this viral scourge. I truly hope that everyone makes it out the other side of this inadvisable event with their health intact. But I fear that a quarter of a million riders coming from the four corners of the country will have to interact with far too many variables on their way to the event, be it hotels or gas stations or public restrooms, that at least a small outbreak seems inevitable.
Just because you are outside does not mean you can’t catch this virus. Do you really think that you know more about exposure risks than medical professionals? There’s a reason the Indy 500 isn’t running with fans this year, because it’s fucking dangerous to be in close proximity to tens of thousands of other people.
Go for a ride out into the middle of the wilderness. Camp by yourself or with a couple of friends for a night. Be one with nature and stare at the stars for a while. Set your campsites up at least 10 feet apart. But please, don’t go to Sturgis. The motorcycle community is small enough as it is, and I don’t want you to die.