This week, Sturgis, S.D., is the best place in America to be a germ.
Its population of 6,943, has grown by 250,000 or so for the Sturgis 2020 motorcycle rally. Even if we don’t count microbes, it’s by far the nation’s biggest gathering since the pandemic began.
Elbow to elbow, few masks, no fear, tons of exhaust.
Pandemic, shmandemic. They dined together, drank together, partied together. They did what any virus would endorse.
I’m not calling bikers unclean. I’m sure there was a lot of hand-washing, maybe even Purelle between shots of Cutty Sark.
I’m not saying the assembly is passing around one wineskin, or that Bandidos and Cossacks have shown up and coughed on each other in lieu of gunfire.
The rally itinerary is respectable and clean.
That’s not the point.
The point: In a pandemic where roughly a third of those infected show no symptoms, a gathering like this is petri-dish ridiculous.
What were the people of Sturgis thinking? Actually, most were and are in accord with others’ sense of alarm. It’s just that city leaders weren’t.
A survey found 60 percent of residents wanted the rally postponed because of the virus. However, business interests won the argument on city council.
Public health lost to the buck that could be made. That includes your health and mine, or what’s a pandemic for?
The United States is doing worse at dealing with this scourge than any developed country, despite whatever charts Donald Trump might have in his lap.
The tragic thing: Unlike him, most of us are taking the pandemic seriously. We are making the requisite sacrifices and precautions.
But even as we do, as the meme says, when a certain segment behaves like there’s no problem, “It’s like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.”
Survey after survey finds most Americans share the concerns of the townspeople in Sturgis. To them, public health should be preeminent over juicing the economy. They realize this is a moment in time. Now is the time to defeat this virus. Only by doing so will the economy do what it can.
Instead, people will die so others can take the fast lane to satisfaction.
Our need for speed makes it impossible to rein in the virus. Florida. Texas. Georgia. Arizona. The leaders in each thought that they could live apart from this worldwide crisis and behave differently from New York and its silly lockdowns. No they couldn’t.
Now a school year arrives. Ever hoping to goose the economy, Trump threatens school districts that won’t stomp on the accelerator.
It didn’t take but one day for some school districts that opened in-person to send students home. That’s going to be the story of 2020, guaranteed.
The best way to get grade-schoolers back to the loving embrace of their teachers is to curb the disease stalking them.
To that end -- toward fighting the disease with facial coverings, social distancing, testing and contact tracing – our president behaves like a 2-year-old in a “You can’t make me” crouch on the floor.
At first I typed “kindergartner” to describe him. But the nation’s kindergartners will be much more responsible than Trump whenever they convene in-person. They’ll do their best, and the teachers will do theirs.
But it’s absolutely impossible to keep these children from exchanging hugs, wiping noses on arms, and generally sharing microbes.
Anyone who’s had a kindergartner knows that the red track beneath the nose is the central trademark of the in-school experience.
In this case, however, the problem is not one that’ll be mitigated with boxes of tissue.
After Sturgis returns to population 6,943, we shudder to consider how many will fall ill while, like a giant sneeze, motorized microbes are expelled out on our highways and byways, and toward membranes near you.