Sturgis council OK’s mass COVID testing

Drive-thru mass testing following this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will be similar to the drive-up testing now being done at Monument Health Spearfish. Courtesy photo

STURGIS — Mass testing of Sturgis residents following the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is one way of curbing the spread of the coronavirus, but continuing to follow CDC guidelines throughout the run of the Rally also can help tremendously, said a Sturgis hospital official.

The Sturgis City Council voted unanimously Monday to contract with Monument Health to administer up to 1,300 COVID-19 tests following this year’s 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Each test costs about $150 and the $195,000 total cost will come from the city’s general fund. The city hopes it will be reimbursed the cost through the state’s Local Government COVID Recovery Fund.

Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen said he has had an uphill battle with the state on trying to get them to help pay for the mass testing in Sturgis.

“It’s expensive,” the mayor said. “I do believe we will get reimbursed, but we have to spend our own money first. It truly makes sense to do the testing because it shows we care about this community.”

Mark Schulte, president of Monument Health Sturgis Hospital and Market, said he is encouraging everyone, whether they live or work in Sturgis, to do their best during the Rally to protect themselves and their family by social distancing, wearing a mask, using proper hand-washing techniques and avoiding large gatherings of people.

“We understand there are people who need to support the Rally from an operations standpoint, but knowing what we know about the virus there will be people who will be carrying it who come here who may be asymptomatic. You may not even know that they are sick and you will be exposed,” he said.

Schulte said the hospital looks at mass testing as a point in time snapshot when people can find out if they have the virus.

“This is not the only strategy that the city and Monument Health are supporting. It is one of the tools that goes along in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Ryan Meyer, co-owner of Grocery Mart in Sturgis said he believes offering the mass testing is a great idea.

“We have a lot of visitors coming through our store. I’m excited they are doing this,” he said.

The Sturgis City Council wrestled with its decision to host the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, scheduled Aug. 7-16, until finally voting in favor of hosting the event at its June 15 meeting.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure that after the Rally we’re not overwhelmed with COVID cases,” Carstensen said.

The testing most likely will be done over a two-day period in a large parking lot somewhere in Sturgis, but not at the Monument Health Sturgis campus, Schulte said.  

Under the plan, local businesses and individuals can request vouchers through the city which would be presented at the testing site. Individuals, who are asymptomatic, would drive up to the tent, remain in their vehicle and have a health-care worker administer the test.

“The test itself is pretty easy and quick. Once you get to the tester, it is just a minute or so,” Schulte said. “We probably won’t get through everyone in one day. Over the course of a couple of days we would get this accomplished.”

Schulte said he has been working with lab services at Monument Health Rapid City for testing supplies and staff to help with the mass testing in Sturgis.

The testing would be done later in the week following the Rally to ensure there has been an adequate incubation period if someone is carrying the virus.

“The likelihood of getting a correct positive would be very high,” Schulte said.

The Sturgis mass testing would be the largest undertaken by Monument Health. Systemwide, Monument Health has administered 10,998 COVID-19 test to date.

Processing of the tests would be done locally with results in about two days.

 

Here is how tests would be divided:

• 150 city employees (mandatory)

•400 Sturgis residents who work frontline jobs (such as restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores)

•200 employees of other entities (such as the county and school district) who have requested testing

• 550 general residents of Sturgis.

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