SIOUX FALLS, SD (AP) – A Minnesota man who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota last month has died of COVID-19, Minnesota health officials reported Wednesday.
It is the first reported death from the coronavirus possibly related to the motorcycle rally. According to an Associated Press study, at least 290 people in 12 states have tested positive for the coronavirus since they attended the meeting that drew hundreds of thousands of people.
The 10-day rally continued despite fears it could turn into a super-dispersed event, with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem welcoming motorcyclists and the tourist dollars they spend. Motorcyclists thronged in bars and rock shows and usually ignored social distance recommendations. Few wore masks.
Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases at the Minnesota Department of Health, said health officials have also seen infections spread from people visiting Sturgis, but those infections were not included in the state’s count of Sturgis-related infections, which was at 50 on Wednesday. .
She said people attending the meeting reported moving between events, campgrounds, and indoor and outdoor areas.
“Most everyone was in a busy environment,” said Ehresmann.
The man who died in Minnesota was in his 60s with underlying health problems and was hospitalized before he died, according to Ehresmann.
The Washington Post first reported the death.
For 10 days in August, the meeting will create a western South Dakota travel hub similar to a major U.S. city, according to an analysis of anonymous cell phone data from Camber Systems, a company that collects cell phone activity for health researchers. The survey found that 61% of all counties in the US had been visited by someone who visited Sturgis this summer.
Health officials in Wisconsin and New Jersey reported that one person was hospitalized in each of those states with the coronavirus after attending Sturgis.
Elizabeth Goodsitt, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said some of the 23 Wisconsin people who tested positive after the meeting mentioned other places they may have been exposed.
“We cannot say that Sturgis was or was not the cause of these cases,” Goodsitt said.
Detecting possible infections among riders who moved between bars, campgrounds and rock shows and then spread across the country is a near-impossible task for health officials.
The South Dakota Department of Health has reported 105 confirmed new cases related to the meeting. The city of Sturgis made coronavirus tests available to residents and city workers after the meeting in an effort to discover those who were infected but had no symptoms.
Since the meeting, there has been a wave of infections in South Dakota; the state ranks third in the country for new cases per capita in the past two weeks.