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SD Gov. Kristi Noem Trashes Fake ‘Academic’ Study of COVID at Biker Rally

'This report is nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom...'

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem forcefully rejected a San Diego State University study that claimed the state’s Sturgis motorcycle rally led to 260,000 coronavirus cases, USA Today reported.

“This report isn’t science; it’s fiction. Under the guise of academic research, this report is nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom to attend Sturgis,” Noem said in a press release titled, “Modeling Isn’t Reality.”

The study said cases associated with this two-week event contributed to 19 percent of the total coronavirus cases in the country in August.

Noem compared this study to another erroneous study about the coronavirus in South Dakota.

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“At one point, academic modeling also told us that South Dakota would have 10,000 COVID patients in the hospital at our peak,” she said. “Today, we have less than 70. I look forward to good journalists, credible academics, and honest citizens repudiating this nonsense.”

Noem did not order business, church, or school closures, and she never ordered her citizens into house arrest.

Yet, South Dakota has maintained an exceptional record regarding the virus, with around 14,000 confirmed cases and about 170 deaths, KTIV reported.

The estimates of the researchers at San Diego State’s Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies differed greatly from the fact-based reporting of the South Dakota Department of Health.

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State health officials said 124 South Dakota residents contracted the virus at the 500,000-person rally on Aug. 16. Reporting from the Associated Press found 290 people from 12 states who had contracted the coronavirus in connection with the rally.

“The results [of the study] do not align with what we know for the impacts of the rally,” state epidemiologist Josh Clayton said Tuesday.

The San Diego State study reached its conclusions through models, which require abstract, rather than data-driven, assumptions about the virus. Famously, Neil Ferguson’s model from the Imperial College London predicted 2.2 million US deaths from the coronavirus, an estimate that through Americans into hysteria and the economy into freefall.

“Predictably, some in the media breathlessly report on this non-peer reviewed model, built on incredibly faulty assumptions that do not reflect the actual facts and data,” Noem said.

The CHEPS researchers used cellphone data to locate high-density areas at the rally. Then the researchers tracked the places to which the rally-goers traveled afterward.

Estimates from the South Dakota Department of Health, however, relied on confirmed cases and contract-tracing.

“We’re never going to be able to contact trace every single person from Sturgis,” Andrew Friedson, one of four authors of the study, said Monday to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. “So if we want a good-faith estimate using, at the moment, the accepted statistical techniques … this is the best number we’re going to get in my opinion.”

The study also concluded that the total public health cost of the Sturgis rally was $12.2 billion.

“Even though the event benefited South Dakota economically, the majority of the health cost is being borne by the rest of the country,” Friedson said.

South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the study’s methodology is unreliable because there is no well-established link between cellphone data and the spread of the coronavirus.

“I would just caution you about putting too much stock into models … that can’t be verified by other factual numbers,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “I think that is the case with that particular white paper.”

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