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Virus-Defying Bikers Roar Into Sturgis

Rally begins, possibly drawing more people taking fewer virus precautions than last year
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2021 4:00 PM CDT
Sturgis Bikers Throw Caution to the Wind
Bobby McCrary, right, has a beer Friday in Sturgis, South Dakota, after riding his motorcycle from Texas.   (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

(Newser) – The South Dakota city of Sturgis, host of the famed annual motorcycle rally, is offering coronavirus tests, masks, and hand sanitizer to the hundreds of thousands of bikers rolling into town. But none of that is a conversation starter. "People here don't want to talk about COVID," a city spokeswoman said. After being in lockdown, she said, bikers from across the country are looking for a normal summer. "They want to have a good time." But health officials and even some residents and bikers are concerned that the good time could be marred by the rally turning into a superspreader event, the Washington Post reports. That fear existed a year ago, too, when about 460,000 people attended the 10-day event. At least 649 infections were linked to last year's rally, but a full picture was difficult to capture once bikers left for their home states. Sturgis expects about 700,000 visitors this time.

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One group is being advised to pass on the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which began Friday, per the New York Times. "We are encouraging people who are in a high-risk category, whether it be age or because of comorbidities, that they come next year," the city manager said. A business owner said even the few steps people took last year to be safe are being skipped now. "This year it's hog-wild," she said. "Nobody cares." A biker who came from North Carolina said he and his wife are vaccinated but won't be wearing masks, though she has tested positive. "The pandemic is horrible; I'm not someone who doesn’t believe that," he said, adding, "but I'm not going to quit living my life when I'm taking the precaution that will save me." The event brings in an estimated $800 million, and Republican Gov. Kristi Noem welcomed the visitors on Facebook. "There's a risk associated with everything that we do in life," she posted. "Bikers get that better than anyone." (Read more motorcycles stories.)

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