Thousands gather in SD for annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Among the crowds of people in downtown Sturgis a handful wore face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Among the crowds of people in downtown Sturgis a handful wore face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Thousands of bikers rode through the streets for the opening day of the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle rally Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Sturgis, S.D.

Bikers ride past a discarded face mask in Sturgis on Saturday.

Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, has supported the Sturgis rally, citing the fact that no infections were reported as a result of the event held by President Trump at Mt. Rushmore last month.

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For Arizona resident Stephen Sample, 66, who rode his bike to the event, the gathering is a break from the mostly monotonous routine of the last several months. Lunsmann said he has attended the Sturgis event every year since 2003 and didn't want to miss the 80th, despite being "somewhat" concerned about COVID-19.

As Sample weighed the risks of navigating the crowds, the same thrill-seeking that attracted him to riding motorcycles seemed to win out.

Daily virus cases have been trending upward in South Dakota, but the seven-day average is still only around 84, with fewer than two deaths per day. She spaced out tables, offered hand sanitizer and scaled back the number of employees at the rally in an effort to help contain the disease.

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Business owners like bar owner Marsha Schmid, however, are trying to prevent her establishment from becoming a virus hotspot.

Several locals said they would spend the rally hunkered down at home.

Sturgis officials plan to mass-test residents to try to detect and halt outbreaks, but the area's largest hospital system is already burdened with the influx of tourists and bikers who inevitably need hospital care during this time.

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