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Sturgis rally linked to 15 Minnesota COVID-19 cases, including 1 hospitalization

Christopher Snowbeck
Star Tribune

Minneapolis — State health officials say 15 Minnesotans who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this month have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including one state resident hospitalized with COVID-19.

The Minnesota Department of Health received the first case report on Thursday and 14 more case reports on Friday, said Kris Ehresmann, the state’s director of infectious diseases, during a briefing Friday with reporters.

Motorcyclists ride down Main Street during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Aug. 7 in Sturgis, South Dakota.

People who have tested positive visited multiple campgrounds and bars at the South Dakota event, Ehresmann said, so cases apparently can’t be connected to any one location.

“We now have 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Minnesotans who had been to Sturgis earlier this month, with one individual who was hospitalized,” she said. “We know that there were many more people from Minnesota who attended the event and expect to see additional cases in the coming days.”

The 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally drew more than 460,000 vehicles this year, according to state officials. Health officials this week in South Dakota have publicized two potential exposures in Sturgis during the time of the rally — one involving a saloon patron who tested positive and another involving an employee at a tattoo parlor.

CNN reported Friday that at least seven cases in Nebraska have been linked to the event.

The Minnesota Department of Health reiterated its guidance that “it’s best,” Ehresmann said, for people who went to Sturgis to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return. People who are feeling ill should get tested, she said, and self-isolate while waiting for results.

Fourteen of the Minnesota cases were among attendees, Ehresmann said, while one worked temporarily at a Sturgis bar that hosted events for the rally. The event ran Aug. 7-16.

“Thousands of people attended that event, and so it’s very likely that we will see more transmission,” she said. “Obviously, it takes a while for people to develop symptoms and to get tested, and for us to get those results. So, we do anticipate that these won’t be the only cases that we see.”

Due to concerns about COVID-19, the city of Sturgis announced modifications before the rally, which draws motorcycle riders from across the county. City-sponsored events including parades, contests and live music were canceled, according to the city’s website.

A spokeswoman for the city did not immediately return a call seeking comment.