A motorcycle rally in the United States led to 250,000 new cases of COVID-19, American experts calculated. The guests of the event did not keep their distance and refused to wear masks. Treating so many people will have a significant impact on the budget, the researchers note.
A motorcycle rally in the American city of Sturgis caused more than 250 thousand cases of COVID-19, according to the specialists of the Institute for Labor Economics. The coronavirus spread among visitors, struck local residents, and then traveled with the guests of the event to other states. Scientists spoke about the consequences in an article published on the Institute’s website.
The Sturgis, South Dakota Motorcycle Rally is held annually in the first full week of August. It attracts hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists from all over the world. This year, despite the fears of local residents, the rally took place again – for the 80th time.
Almost half a million Americans attended.
The authors of the work took into account the increase in the number of visitors to bars, restaurants, and other places in the city and nearby. Based on data on the increase in infections in the three weeks after the rally, they estimate that the event caused more than 250,000 new cases of COVID-19.
The rally participants were not too worried about safety. Claiming that the pandemic would not stop them, they practically did not wear masks and did not keep their distance. According to news reports, many saw the pandemic not as a real threat but as a political hoax.
“I’d rather die than wear a mask,” one biker told reporters. “This pandemic is just a staging”.
The rally affected not only people’s health but also the economy, scientists say. On average, the treatment of one patient from COVID-19 costs the budget $ 46 thousand.
Assuming all cases are non-fatal, more than $12 billion will be spent on treatment.
“This is enough to pay each of the rally participants $26,000 so that they do not come,” the researchers write.
The authors of the paper admit that this is not an accurate estimate of the costs, but their calculations show the approximate cost of the rally for public health and give “an idea of how valuable restrictions on mass gatherings can be in this context”.
It is difficult to get an accurate idea of how many cases of coronavirus infection are directly related to the event since the contact tracing process depends on the consent of individuals to cooperate and many do not get tested for coronavirus if they do not have symptoms. Still, at least eight states have linked the rise in incidence in the past two weeks to the rally.
So, in Minnesota, died a 60-year-old man who attended the rally. Shortly after returning home, he was admitted to the intensive care unit with symptoms of COVID-19, tests confirmed the diagnosis. In South Dakota, the number of cases of coronavirus infection increased by 126%, and neighboring states also reported an increase in the number of patients.
Northwestern University epidemiologist Sadia Khan notes that other factors also contributed, although the rally certainly played a major role.
“The rise in incidence is definitely related to two events,” she says. – Firstly, with the rally in Sturgis. Second, with the return of students to colleges and universities”.
Crowds of people, especially without masks and in poorly ventilated rooms, are a sure way to the spread of coronavirus, scientists remind. So, in China, a passenger on a bus with a coronavirus infected 24 people. This proves the possibility of transmission of coronavirus not only through microdroplets but also through the air.
In January 2020, even before the introduction of social distancing measures, in eastern China, a group of 128 Buddhists embarked on a fifty-minute ride in two buses. In one of them was a passenger who was infected with a coronavirus, but did not know about it yet. None of the passengers wore masks. Soon after the trip, the coronavirus was detected in 24 passengers who shared the bus with the infected woman, as well as in seven other people who had contact with her at the ceremony that day.
It didn’t matter how far the passengers were from the source of the infection — even the people who were sitting seven rows away from the patient were infected. However, the risk was reduced if the passenger was at a window or door.
The results of the study support the data that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air, and not just through microdroplets, scientists say. A cramped room with insufficient ventilation greatly increases the risk of infection.