STURGIS, S.D. — The coronavirus may be changing the world, but there aren’t many signs of the pandemic at the massive annual motorcycle rally being held this week at a small city along Interstate 90 in western South Dakota.
The scene Saturday at the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was familiar to veterans of the event, with throngs of maskless bikers packing the streets.
Motorcyclist Kevin Lunsmann, 63, rode more than 600 miles to the rally from Big Lake, Minn., with several friends.
Lunsmann said he has attended the Sturgis event every year since 2003 and didn’t want to miss the 80th, despite being “somewhat’’ concerned about the coronavirus.
Still, the crowds of people and rows of bikes surprised him. He said there was no difference from previous years “other than a few people wearing masks.”
Lunsmann said he was avoiding the bars and nightclubs that line the city’s main drag this year, but many others were not. They were filled with revelers as the sun set Friday.
“Everybody’s still partying hardy,” Lunsmann said.
Organizers expected the overall crowd to be smaller, perhaps half the size of a normal year, when some half-million people from across the country roar into a town whose population is around 7,000.
The sheer numbers raise the prospect that this year’s rally could spread the COVID-19 virus in a state with no special limits on indoor crowds, no mask mandates, and a governor who is eager to welcome visitors and their money.
Republican Governor Kristi Noem has taken a largely hands-off approach to the pandemic, avoiding a mask mandate and preaching personal responsibility.
She supported holding the rally.
Daily virus cases have been trending upward in South Dakota, but the seven-day average is still only around 84, with fewer than two deaths per day.
DIY home study of families underway across US
In a comfy suburb just outside Nashville, a young family swabs their noses twice a month in a DIY study seeking answers to some of the most vexing questions about the coronavirus.
How many US children and teens are infected? How many kids who are infected show no symptoms? How likely are they to spread it to other kids and adults?
“The bottom line is we just don’t know yet the degree to which children can transmit the virus,” said Dr. Tina Hartert of Vanderbilt University, who is leading the government-funded study.
Evidence from the United states, China, and Europe shows children are less likely to become infected with the virus than adults and also less likely to become seriously ill when they do get sick. There is also data suggesting that young children don’t spread the virus very often but that kids aged 10 and up may spread it just as easily as adults. The new study aims to find more solid proof.
“If we don’t see significant transmission within households, that would be very reassuring,” Hartert said.
Some 2,000 families in 11 US cities are enrolled in the DIY experiment, pulled from participants in previous government research. In all, that’s 6,000 people. They have no in-person contact with researchers. Testing supplies are mailed to their homes.
They collect their own nasal swabs for COVID-19 tests, and less often blood and stool samples. The specimens are mailed to the study organizers. Participants get text messages asking about symptoms and reminding them to test and to fill out questionnaires.
The study could help determine the safety of in-class education during the pandemic. But results aren’t expected before year’s end.
For Mendy and Joe McNulty and their two youngest sons in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., nasal swabbing at home is a family affair. Testing supplies are spread out on a carefully wiped down kitchen counter, where the four gather to perform what has become a ritual. Mendy McNulty helps the boys with their swabbing.
“We were excited to be able to feel like we could contribute somehow,” she said, explaining why the family chose to participate. “This virus is so unknown. Any little bit we can do felt like we were doing something to help.”
Health care workers call on UK government for relief
LONDON — Hundreds of health care workers rallied in British cities on Saturday, demanding that the Conservative government acknowledge their hard work and dedication during the coronavirus pandemic with a hefty pay increase.
In London, demonstrators — most wearing masks and observing social distancing — marched to the gates of Downing Street, the home and office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, chanting, “Boris Johnson, hear us shout! Pay us properly or get out!”
Britain’s medical workers have been hailed as heroes during the pandemic by both the government and the public. But some say a decade of public spending cuts by Johnson and previous Conservative prime ministers has left the state-funded National Health Service struggling to cope.
A placard carried by a protester in Glasgow, Scotland, said “Enough empty praise. (Give us) a fair raise.” Another read: “Who saved you, Boris?”
Johnson himself contracted COVID-19 and spent three nights in intensive care at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. He later thanked the staff there for saving his life.
Face mask requirements spreading through France
SAINT-TROPEZ, France — The glamorous French Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez began requiring face masks outdoors Saturday, threatening to sober the mood in a place renowned for high-end, free-wheeling summer beach parties.
More French cities and towns, especially in tourist areas, are imposing mask requirements as the country’s coronavirus infections creep up again. More than 2,000 new infections were reported on Friday — the country’s biggest single-day rise since May.
As of Saturday, wearing a mask outdoors was also compulsory in some crowded parts of Marseille, France’s second-largest city. Paris will apply similar measures in the most crowded areas of the capital starting on Monday.
France has already made mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public spaces nationwide.
Brazil nears virus death toll of 100,000
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil is approaching the grim milestone of 100,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19.
That comes five months after the first reported case in a nation of 210 million, which has not shown signs of slowing the disease. Brazil has reported an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May.
The Health Ministry on Friday reported a total of 2,962,442 confirmed cases and 99,572 deaths — tolls second only to the United States. As in many countries, experts believe both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.
The non-governmental group Rio de Paz placed crosses and a thousand red balloons on the sand on the famed Copacabana beach on Saturday.
“It’s very sad. Those 100,000 represent various families, friends, parents, children,” said Marcio Silva, 55, who lost his children in the pandemic and joined the tribute.
Masks now required in most indoor settings in UK
LONDON — People in Britain must wear masks in most indoor settings starting Saturday as the country tries to squash a rise in coronavirus infections that has followed the easing of lockdown measures.
England and Scotland now require face-coverings in most indoor spaces, including places of worship, museums, cinemas, banks, and libraries.
They were already mandatory in shops and on public transit.
A swath of northern England has been put under tougher restrictions that bar households from mixing, after a surge in infections that authorities blame partly on people meeting up in homes and pubs.
Britain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at more than 46,500, the highest in Europe.