No, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Didn’t Spawn 250,000 Coronavirus Cases

Here’s what we were told: An August motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, helped spread COVID-19 to more than a quarter-million Americans, making it the root of about 20 percent of all new coronavirus cases in the U.S. last month. So said a new white paper from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, at least. And national news outlets ran with it.

“Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was ‘superspreading event’ that cost public health $12.2 billion,” tweeted The Hill.

“The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held in South Dakota last month may have caused 250,000 new coronavirus cases,” said NBC News.

“The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the ‘worst-case scenarios’ for superspreading occurred simultaneously,” the researchers write in the new paper, titled “The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19.”

Not so fast. Let’s take a look at what they actually tracked and what’s mere speculation.

According to South Dakota health officials, 124 new cases in the state—including one fatal case—were directly linked to the rally. Overall, COVID-19 cases linked to the Sturgis rally were reported in 11 states as of September 2, to a tune of at least 260 new cases, according to The Washington Post.

There very well may be more cases that have been linked to the early August event, but so far, that’s only 260 confirmed cases—about 0.1 percent of the number the IZA paper offers.

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Are You Ready For The “No One Could Have Known” Routine?

Ready for another rendition of the “no one could have known” routine made famous by all the self-proclaimed liberals who shamelessly went along with the Neo-Cons planned and lie-supported destruction of the Middle East nearly two decades ago?

As in “no one could have known” that by shutting down life as we know it to focus obsessively on a virus mostly affecting what is still a relatively small number of people at the end of their lives (yes, oh squeamish ones we must summon the courage to talk about Quality Adjusted Life Years when making public policy) we probably would:

1. Cause economic devastation and hence excess deaths, suicides, divorces depressions in much larger numbers than those killed by the virus.

2. Provide an already monopolistic and predatory online retailing establishment with competitive advantages in terms of capital reserves and market share that will make it virtually impossible at any time in the near or medium future for the country’s and the world’s small and even medium-sized businesses to ever catch up to them. And that this will plunge huge sectors of the world-wide economy into serf-like ruin, with all that this portends in terms of additional death and human suffering.

3. Cause greatly increased misery and countless additional deaths in the so-called Global South where many people, rightly or wrongly, depend on the consumption patterns of us relatively fortunate sit-at-homers to make it through the week.

4. Destroy much of what was attractive about urban life as we know it and lead to a real estate collapse of extraordinary proportions, turning even our few remaining showplace cities into crime-ridden reserves of ever more desperate people.

5. Force state and local governments, already struggling before the crisis, and unable to print at money at will like the Feds, to cut their already insufficient budgets at a time when their broke and stressed constituents need those services more than ever.

6. Push “smart” monitoring of our lives, already intolerable for anyone still clinging to memories of freedom in the pre-September 11th world, to the point where most people will no longer understand what people used to know as privacy, intimacy or the simple dignity of being left alone.

7. Train of a generation of children to be fearful and distrustful of others from day one, and to view bending to diktats “to keep them safe”, (no matter how empirically dubious the actual threat to them might be), rather than the courageous pursuit of joy and human fullness, as the key goal in life.

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The ‘Highest Single-Day of COVID-19 Deaths’ That Wasn’t

Under the best of circumstances, reporting on COVID-19 is tough. There are simply too many unknowns, and even when officials aren’t manipulating the truth they aren’t always willing to cop to the fact that they really don’t have solid answers.

But there’s really no excuse for journalism as sloppy and misleading as the August 13 ABC News segment whose headline blared “US reports highest single-day of COVID-19 deaths.” This video was widely shared, appearing not just on the main ABC News site, but also on Good Morning AmericaMSN.com, and elsewhere. And it simply wasn’t true.

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Without ‘Much More Aggressive Shutdowns,’ The New York Times Warns, COVID-19 Could Kill ‘Well Over a Million’ Americans

Without “much more aggressive shutdowns,” a New York Times editorial warns, “well over a million” Americans “may ultimately die” from COVID-19. The paper does not cite a source for that estimate, which seems highly implausible based on the death toll so far, projections for the next few months, the gap between total infections and confirmed cases, and a crude case fatality rate that continues to fall.

Independent data scientist Youyang Gu, who has a good track record of predicting COVID-19 fatalities, is currently projecting about 231,000 deaths in the United States by November 1. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects 295,000 deaths by December 1. Assuming those projections prove to be about right, the Times is predicting that the death toll will quadruple during the months before an effective vaccine can be deployed, which might happen early next year.

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Without ‘Much More Aggressive Shutdowns,’ The New York Times Warns, COVID-19 Could Kill ‘Well Over a Million’ Americans

Without “much more aggressive shutdowns,” a New York Times editorial warns, “well over a million” Americans “may ultimately die” from COVID-19. The paper does not cite a source for that estimate, which seems highly implausible based on the death toll so far, projections for the next few months, the gap between total infections and confirmed cases, and a crude case fatality rate that continues to fall.

Independent data scientist Youyang Gu, who has a good track record of predicting COVID-19 fatalities, is currently projecting about 231,000 deaths in the United States by November 1. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects 295,000 deaths by December 1. Assuming those projections prove to be about right, the Times is predicting that the death toll will quadruple during the months before an effective vaccine can be deployed, which might happen early next year.

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