Minnesota and Nebraska Officials Say COVID-19 Cases Linked to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Coronavirus cases reported in Minnesota and Nebraska have been linked to people who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, which ended last week.

According to the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 15 cases linked to people who attended the annual event. The residents who tested positive had joined the rally and visited campgrounds and bars.

Minnesota officials said it was likely more cases would appear. South Dakota reported that over 460,000 vehicles entered Sturgis around the time of the rally. "Thousands of people attended that event, and so it's very likely that we will see more transmission," said Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota's director of infectious diseases, according to the Tribune. Minnesota health officials had expressed worries about the event prior to its beginning on August 7.

In Friday's daily update, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 835 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state's total up to 68,133.

Nebraska reported at least seven cases tied to the rally, according to CNN. The state's health department said that contact tracing had been completed. The Nebraska Department of Health's website reported that the state's total positive COVID-19 cases were over 31,000.

The South Dakota Department of Health has issued three press releases warning people about potential exposure in Sturgis following the motorcycle rally. In the most recent release, officials said that a person visited three businesses on August 15 and has tested positive for COVID-19. The department said the person visited the the Knuckle Saloon between 5 and 6 p.m.; the Broken Spoke Saloon between 6 and 7 p.m.; and One Eyed Jack's Saloon between 7:15 and 11:30 p.m. "Due to the risk of exposure, individuals that visited these businesses during the specified dates and times should monitor for symptoms for 14 days after they visited," the release said.

An earlier update had warned about another individual who had visited One Eyed Jack's Saloon on August 11, between noon and 5:30 p.m. Officials also said that an employee at the Asylum Tattoo parlor who worked from August 13 to 17 also tested positive for coronavirus. People that may have been exposed were also given advice to monitor symptoms for 14 days.

On Friday, South Dakota's health department reported 193 new cases of the virus. The state has reported a total of 10,884 COVID-19 cases. Sturgis city manager Daniel Ainslie told CNN that officials heard that cancelling the event would have been futile, so they tried to prepare for it properly. "So we kept hearing from people saying it doesn't matter, they are coming to Sturgis. So with that, ultimately the council decided that it was really vital for the community to be prepared for the additional people that we're going to end up having," he said.

Rally organizers drew criticism for proceeding with the event, which has been held since 1938 and includes drag races, musical performances and more, in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Press contacts for the health departments in South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Motorcyclists ride through downtown Deadwood, South Dakota during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 8, 2020. The rally has been connected to coronavirus cases in Minnesota and Nebraska. Michael Ciaglo/Getty