Minnesota confirms 15 COVID-19 cases linked to Sturgis

The Minnesota Department of Health has 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in people who went to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. One of those patients is hospitalized, MDH director of infectious disease and epidemiology Kris Ehresmann said on a briefing phone call Friday.

Minnesota health officials are expecting to see more COVID-19 cases tied to Sturgis, which ran from Aug. 7 to Aug. 16.

“Thousands of people attended that event and so it’s very likely that we will see more transmission," Ehresmann said. "Obviously it takes a while for people to develop symptoms and for people to get tests.”

MDH recieved its information about travel to Sturgis events from interviews with those patients. The health department learned 14 of the 15 people were Sturgis attendees and one person was a volunteer at a bar for the rally.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation traffic count at nine entry points for Sturgis this year totaled 462,182. That’s just a slight decrease from 499,654 in 2019. MDH asked Minnesotans who planned to attend Sturgis to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days after they return.

"Nobody likes to tell people they shouldn't go out and have fun and live their lives, but the hard truth is we are in a historic pandemic," said Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm during the state’s coronavirus briefing on Aug. 7.

While some compare the outdoor gatherings at Sturgis to the large rallies held in Minneapolis following George Floyd's death, Malcolm says the state of the pandemic has changed since two months ago. Now, health officials are seeing a much greater degree of community transmission.

"The significant difference was much of the transmission was coming from known sources of outbreak, in congregate care settings or in workplace settings that yes, indeed did spread into the community, but the point of origin was a little more easy to identify," said Malcolm.