The first COVID-19 death linked to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was reported on Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The person who died was a Minnesota man in his sixties with underlying health conditions. Kris Ehresmann, the Minnesota Department of Health’s infectious disease director, said the agency is tracking an outbreak of 50 cases connected to the rally. All 50 people attended Sturgis, and Ehresmann said they may have spread the virus in their communities.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held annually, and this year’s iteration drew more than 460,000 vehicles, only down about eight percent from 2019. The event started on Aug. 7, and so far health departments in 11 states have reported at least 260 cases tied directly to the event, The Washington Post reports.
Epidemiologists believe there are significantly more cases linked to Sturgis, the Post says, but the true numbers won’t be known due to limited contact tracing in some states and attendees resisting being tested. The rally ended on Aug. 16, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that virus symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear.
There were major concerns that holding such a large event could spread the coronavirus across the country, but South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) urged organizers not to cancel, tweeting before Sturgis started that “South Dakota is in a good spot in our fight against COVID-19” and she was “excited for visitors to see what our great state has to offer!” On Wednesday, South Dakota’s seven-day average for new cases was at 347, up from 107 two weeks ago. The total number of cases is 14,003, up from 10,566 two weeks ago. Catherine Garcia