Dr Fauci blasts Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota saying he fears 700K bikers will cause COVID spike
DR Fauci said he is "concerned" that the upcoming Sturgis Motorcycle Rally could fuel a spike in COVID-19 cases.
"I'm very concerned that we are going to see another surge related to that rally," the disease expert said on Meet the Press on Sunday.
"To me, it's understandable that people want to do the kind of things they want to do. They want their freedom to do that."
The 10-day rally brings an estimated 700,000 bikers to Sturgis, South Dakota every year.
Christina Steele, a city spokesperson told the Washington Post that masks are not mandated for attendees, and that people "don't want to talk about COVID."
“The people visiting have said they come from states that have been in lockdown for so long and they just want to have a normal summer vacation without the worries of last year,” she said.
“People here don’t want to talk about COVID. They want to have a good time.”
Last year's event saw the nearly 460,000 attendees flout mask wearing and social distancing guidelines in what researchers at the CDC said had "many characteristics of a superspreading event."
Researchers from San Diego State University's Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies later estimated that over 260,000 cases, or an astonishing 19percent of total infections in the US, could be linked to the event.
It comes as South Dakota has seen a 68percent jump in COVID cases last week, and the number of daily cases in the US hit 50,000, the highest number since May.
Approximately 46 percent of adults who reside in the area that hosts the rally are fully vaccinated, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Minnesota Department of Health has also released a warning that the rally could cause "increased risk."
"The risk increases with larger groups and longer durations of exposure, especially in settings where there may be many unvaccinated people and social distancing and wearing masks aren't routinely practiced," the official statement read.
"Any event or setting that is conducive to spreading the virus will continue to allow more variants to develop, undermining the gains we have already made with this virus."
Daniel Bucheli, a spokesperson for the South Dakota Department of Health told the Daily Beast that the agency is working with local partners to provide free testing to attendees.
"We had 125 COVID-19 cases that reported Sturgis Rally attendance last year," he said.
"Anytime you have a large group of people come together, there are risks, but with the proper precautions and mitigation practices, it can be done safely.”
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