The right-wing trolls who have been crying hypocrisy about recent large gatherings attended by prominent Democrats have been silent about an annual rally that draws hundreds of thousands of people to an event that was proven to be a super spreader of COVID-19 last year.
The 81st annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota is expected to fetch upwards of 700,000 people over the course of 10 days and does not have any restrictions for attendance, including mandates requiring proof of vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests.
The rally was taking place as reports showed the exponentially more contagious COVID-19 delta variant feasts upon such assemblies. The numbers are alarming in South Dakota, where coronavirus cases have recently increased by nearly 70%, according to the Associated Press.
It’s the polar opposite of former President Barack Obama‘s legendary 60th birthday party this past weekend at his mansion in Martha’s Vineyard, where hundreds of people reportedly attended under the condition they provide evidence of being vaccinated or test negative for the virus before gaining entry.
Video from the party posted by singer Erykah Badu showed Obama — one of the most vocal proponents of the vaccine who’s repeatedly urged Americans to get vaccinated — dancing as none of the other people shown were wearing masks. The guest list was reportedly “scaled back” after criticism about Democrats being hypocrites for trumpeting COVID-19 guidelines and then appearing to flout them.
And now, video footage has been posted to social media showing Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a progressive Democrat, dancing at a wedding “with 100+ maskless people,” according to a tweet from Robby Starbuck, a movie producer and director who is also — yep, you guessed it — a right-wing troll.
The brief clip appeared to have been ripped from since-deleted video footage posted to the Instagram Stories of a Detroit-based wedding venue.
Missing from that video, of course, is precious context, like whether there were any COVID-19 restrictions enforced. It was also unclear exactly how many people were in attendance.
Without knowing those answers, the judgment is premature and disingenuous.
But logic never stopped a right-wing troll from trolling, as we saw with the criticism about Obama’s party.
However, we haven’t seen that same right-wing criticism of the Sturgis rally, something conservatives are trying to protect from judgment despite it being a proven superspreader of COVID-19 and public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci — the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden — warning the same is bound to happen again this year. A warning that was absent from reports ahead of Obama’s party.
Sturgis rally location matters
NPR spoke with multiple medical doctors who warned that the Sturgis rally presented a heightened threat of spreading COVID-19 simply because of where it was taking place. That is to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of attendees coming from outside of the state.
“The Sturgis Rally unfortunately increases the risk for a spread because we know the delta variant is causing rises in say, Arkansas, Missouri and several other states,” Dr. Shankar Kurra, the vice president of medical affairs at Monument Health, a health care system that serves western South Dakota, told NPR.
While there is a COVID-19 outbreak on Provincetown in Cape Cod, which is nearly 100 miles north of Martha’s Vineyard, the numbers in Massachusetts pale in comparison to those in states like Louisiana, Florida and Arkansas, the latter of which is rapidly running out of ICU beds because of the delta variant, Reuters reported.
Likewise, Crain’s Detroit Business reported that vaccinations in Michigan have been increasing over concerns about the delta variant.
There are no such reports out of Sturgis, or South Dakota.
Meanwhile, data provided by USAFacts, a nonpartisan, nonprofit data-driven think tank, found that fewer than half of South Dakota’s residents were fully vaccinated as of the start of the rally last weekend, and about 53% have gotten at least one dose.
In comparison, 64% percent of people living in Massachusetts are fully vaccinated and 73% have gotten at least one dose.
Michigan’s numbers mirror those of South Dakota. But, as mentioned, the vaccination rate has been increasing, unlike in South Dakota.
Public health experts have repeatedly said that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Sturgis rally is a proven superspreader
CDC researchers determined that more than 600 cases of COVID-19 came from last year’s rally.
However, one group of researchers concluded that the number of COVID-19 cases from last year’s rally could be closer to 266,000. And that was before the existence of the much more contagious delta variant.
“Taken together, the results … provide strong evidence that the Sturgis Rally appears to have been a super-spreader event for COVID-19,” the researchers said in their report last year. “We find significant case increases within the state of South Dakota as well as increases extending to counties from which relatively more residents attended the event.”
Meanwhile, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has said she refuses to trust the science.
“This report isn’t science; it’s fiction. Under the guise of academic research, this report is nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom to attend Sturgis,” Noem said in a press release. “Predictably, some in the media breathlessly report on this non-peer-reviewed model, built on incredibly faulty assumptions that do not reflect the actual facts and data here in South Dakota.”
It’s no coincidence that photos from Sturgis show that support for Donald Trump — who still refuses to endorse the COVID-19 vaccine and has repeatedly downplayed it as a “hoax” — is a common theme at the motorcycle rally.
This is America.