Rapid City's Council president shared her concerns about holding the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally during the coronavirus pandemic on national television Thursday afternoon.
In an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," Laura Armstrong said that holding the rally followed by the Central States Fair, the Labor Day holiday and the start of the school year is "a sequence of insanity."
"They're not going to be able to handle any kind of social distancing. There's a significant amount of alcohol involved. It's a huge party," Armstrong said of the rally. "They can infect our Native American population, our law enforcement, potentially our bar staff, our tourist attractions, our hotels and motels, and even our grocery stores."
During the interview with Brian Todd of CNN, Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen said the expected 250,000 people attending the rally will be encouraged to socially distance and wear masks, but he understands many won't do that. He also defended the rally and praised South Dakota for being a "free state" during the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed nearly 160,000 Americans and 141 South Dakotans.
"We cannot stop people from coming. South Dakota has been a free state through this whole process, and we've had a tremendous amount of visitors already," Carstensen said in the interview.
It is that high number of visitors during the rally that has Emory University infectious disease specialist Dr. Carlos del Rio concerned. In the CNN interview, del Rio said the activities associated with the rally could be a "super-spreader" of COVID-19.
"I'm not worried about the rally itself. I'm worried about the parties and the other things that will happen after the rally," del Rio said in the interview. "I think because of that, I'm quite concerned that this event could potentially be a disaster. There could not only be a lot of transmission there, but a lot of people could get infected there and go back to their home states and take the virus over there."
Contact Assistant Managing Editor Nathan Thompson at email@example.com.
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