When the South Dakota Republican governor disregarded CDC warnings in 2020, the Sturgis Bike Rally resulted in 'widespread transmission' of COVID-19 across the country.
South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem complained on Thursday that Dr. Anthony Fauci "continues to pick on" Republican governors over COVID-19, but much of the current problems with the virus' resurgence is occurring in the states they govern.
Noem's comments came during an appearance on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" after the hosts played a clip of Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an appearance on Sunday's edition of "Meet the Press."
In response to plans going forward to host the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, Fauci said he was "very concerned" that "we're going to see another surge related to that rally." Organizers of the event are not mandating masks or vaccines for attendees despite the thousands that are expected to attend from multiple states.
"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 told Fox.
Republicans have promoted the falsehood that migrants crossing the border are responsible for the COVID-19 surge, but health officials have said the data does not support this assertion.
Noem went on to complain that she "didn't hear [Fauci] criticize President Obama for having a party." In reality, despite the claims from Republicans and outlets like Fox, Obama cut down the guestlist for his birthday party in response to the surge of the delta variant.
Noem's complaint comes as COVID infections have disproportionately affected states governed by Republican governors and state governments.
Jeffrey Zients, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator told reporters at an Aug. 2 briefing that one-third of cases reported in the previous week came from Florida and Texas, where Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, respectively, are in charge.
The bike rally, which Noem has promoted, is going ahead even though South Dakota's vaccination rate of 54% is below the national average of 59.3%. The same is true of the states immediately bordering South Dakota, including North Dakota (46.3%), Wyoming (42.8%), Montana (50.4%), Nebraska (55.3%), and Iowa (54.4%). Only Minnesota — where Democrat Tim Walz is governor — has an above-average vaccination rate, 60%.
In 2020, Noem dismissed concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 at the rally. In May of that year, Noem accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of being part of a plot to "demonize" the rally.
But an April 2021 study from the CDC found the rally had resulted in "widespread transmission" of the virus. A total of 39 different states reported they had patients who had traveled to Meade County, South Dakota, where the rally was held, at the time of the rally or had directly attended the rally itself.
Additionally, a September 2020 study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics estimated that over 266,000 cases of COVID-19 could be traced back to the rally. Researchers estimated that the total health care costs stemming from infections at the rally would amount to over $12 billion.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.