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Sturgis motorcycle rally in 2018.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The number of new coronavirus infections in South Dakota rose by nearly 500 percent after Republican Gov. Kristi Noem allowed the state's annual Sturgis motorcycle rally to take place.

Despite ongoing concerns about the virus, Noem actively encouraged attendance at the rally and appeared at a charity event held there.

South Dakota reported 3,819 new virus cases in the past two weeks, up from 644 cases in the previous 14 days. The Sturgis bike rally took place from August 6 to 15.

The rally and the subsequent rise in virus transmission numbers mirrors what happened in the state in 2020. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people attending the 2020 rally had spread the virus, including to people in other states.

Medical experts expressed concern ahead of the 2021 event, which was held even though the vaccination rate in the area is only 44 percent for people age 12 and older.

On August 8, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC's Meet the Press that he was "very concerned" that a COVID surge would be associated with the rally. Organizers did not mandate masks or vaccines for attendees.

A few days later, appearing on Fox News, Noem lashed out at Fauci and the Biden administration.

"It's shocking to me that he continues to pick on Republican governors, people who love their freedoms, and he ignores what's happening at the border," Noem said of Fauci. She also said Fauci "has discredited his entire profession by the positions he has taken during this pandemic."

Since Noem's statement, South Dakota has had the largest percentage increase in virus cases in the United States.

Dr. Shankar Kurra, vice president of medical affairs at Monument Health in Rapid City, South Dakota, told the Daily Beast, "It happened last year. It was just playing a reboot of last year pretty much."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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