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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally leading to research in reverse contact tracing

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The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota drew nearly 500,000 people to the state in August. Some now suggest that the ripple effect from the gathering could be causing COVID-19 to surge throughout the Midwest.

North Dakota’s Chief Health Strategist Dr. Joshua Wynne says the rally was likely a contributing factor to the spread, but not the whole picture. Now, new research from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics shows how that rally was used in reverse contact tracing.

Using cell phone data and CDC records, researchers were able to trace the source of transmission for many back to Sturgis. Dr. Wynne says that kind of tracing could be a valuable resource in stopping the spread.

“The use of any tracking information that is not intrusive — I don’t want big brother looking in on me either — but if we can better understand how these events occur without violating personal liberty and personal freedom, I think that’s a good thing,” he said.

The Sturgis Rally lasted 10 days this summer, with minimal mask-wearing observed.

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