John Colson: Happy to be COVID-compliant, what about you?

John Colson
Hit & Run

I’ve noticed that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one of the various disasters afflicting our country right now, has been more on my mind than anything else in recent weeks, mostly because I can’t believe the number of idiots that are out there who insist that our government’s efforts to quell the disease have somehow been an attack on these idiots’ personal freedoms.

For instance, a couple hundred thousand bikers were at the 2020 motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, last month, partying like Vikings on shore leave. And as shown by photos from the 10-day event, very few of them were wearing masks, distancing themselves or paying much attention at all to the fact that there undoubtedly were coronavirus particles drifting everywhere.

According to a recent report in the LA Times, it is estimated that once the bar-hopping, campfire jams and other events ended, the bikers left South Dakota and headed home to what may amount to about 61% of all the counties in the U.S.

That’s a hell of a lot of contract tracing. One observer compared it to trying to track the virus through a city the size of Washington, D.C. (705,000 in 2019). It seemed he was trying to make the point that the nation’s capital is regularly visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists per year, from all over the country, just as Sturgis is for this one event, which can bedevil any effort at contact tracing.

According to the story in the LA Times, dated Aug. 25, health officials in four states (Minnesota, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota) already had cataloged 81 infection cases as coming from Sturgis attendees, and that was only nine days after the rally ended.

An Aug. 26 report by ABC News added several other states to the tally from the rally, including Montana, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Washington, as having Sturgis-related COVID cases cropping up here and there, bringing the count to “at least 100” new cases by that date.

Imagine the counts once the incubation period has drawn to a close, and once the rally-goers have made the return trips to more distant locations.

Notably, South Dakota’s Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican who clearly hews to the Donald Trump version of pandemic views, openly declared (by tweet), “We are not — and WILL not — be the subjects of an elite class of so-called experts” who warned earlier in the summer that Sturgis could easily be the source of multiple subsequent “hot spots” of COVID infections.

She also refused to impose requirements for rally attendees to wear face masks.

The ABC report pointed out that 40 cases related to the rally had shown up in South Dakota already.

As of Aug. 7, the opening day for Sturgis, the story reported that South Dakota already had approximately 9,000 cases of the virus, and that by Aug. 26 the toll had risen to 11,500 and the metrics for positive reaction to testing had risen from 6% before the rally to 9% after it was over. According to those “experts” Noem dismissed so readily, the rise in positivity means there likely is a high number of cases still to be detected in her state.

As concern spread throughout the Midwest, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a headline shouting that the virus had been “revved” by the Sturgis event, and that infections were rising as the bikers returned home.

Of course, not all the bikers will have contracted the disease, and The Associated Press interviewed some who said they had gotten tested after coming home and that the results were negative.

But in Sturgis itself, where residents had initially resisted holding the rally at all, people who live in the area already have reported a rise in local infections, though I could find no official statement on the issue by the town’s government.

I should say, right here, that I am a motorcyclist, have been for nearly half a century, but I’ve never gone to Sturgis for the rally — I don’t like crowds, don’t ride in a pack, and frankly don’t drink heavily enough to fit in with the overall atmosphere.

I also don’t wear a mask when I’m riding, but I carry one at all times and any time I enter a business I put it on as a show of respect and responsibility toward those around me.

You see, I count myself lucky that I haven’t contracted the virus to this point. I’m in pretty good physical shape for a guy my age (go ahead, guess — as a hint, I am in a high-risk age group), and I don’t think the virus would necessarily kill me even if I did catch it.

But my wife works at a pre-school, and I don’t want to kick off my own special hot spot by bringing the virus home.

Plus, it’s a fact that we don’t know much about the virus itself, including how easy it is to catch from someone who is asymptomatic. And we are beginning to realize that there are after-effects and pretty serious potential illnesses that can show up even after one has recovered from the virus itself.

So, I don’t want to catch it, and I am happy to keep on being a social-distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing kind of a guy for as long as it takes.

What about you?

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