The motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, in August has been linked to a Covid-19 outbreak in Minnesota, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlighting how one state’s lax rules during the pandemic affect others with stricter measures in place.
The 10-day event is a long-standing tradition that usually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the country. Despite opposition from local residents this year, the rally took place, complete with crowded bars and nearby concerts.
This year, about 460,000 people attended, according to the report, published Friday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In neighboring Minnesota, the state’s health department investigated a Covid-19 outbreak tied to the rally and found at least 51 residents had attended the rally and became sick, and an additional 35 people were infected after coming into contact with a person who went to the rally, the report said. Those 35 people were household, social and workplace contacts, it said.
Of those 86 cases, four people were hospitalized, and one died.
In early September, CNN reported Minnesota’s health department identified a Covid-19 death stemming from the rally. A spokesman for the department previously said the person was in their 60s, had been hospitalized in the ICU and had underlying health conditions.
About one third of all Minnesota’s counties had at least one case associated with the rally, the report says.
“These findings highlight the far-reaching effects that gatherings in one area might have on another area,” the report says. “The motorcycle rally was held in a neighboring state that did not have policies regarding event size and mask use, underscoring the implications of policies within and across jurisdictions.”
Among the report’s limitations, it says the findings don’t capture the impact the rally had on other states and these numbers are likely an underestimate of the rally’s true impact in Minnesota.
Ten of the Covid-19 patients reported having close contacts, but refused to disclose any of their details, so public health workers were unable to see if any of them were sick. At least two rally attendees also said that some of their contacts had Covid-19-like symptoms but did not plan on getting tested.
Previous CNN surveys of state health departments revealed there had also been cases believed to be linked to the rally identified in Nebraska’s panhandle region, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana and Wyoming.
About 61% of US counties were visited by someone who was at Sturgis, Camber Systems, which collects and analyzes cellphone activity for health researchers, had also previously told CNN.
“Despite underascertainment of the rally’s full impact in Minnesota and other states, these findings highlight the importance of reducing the number of attendees at gatherings and emphasizing mask use, physical distancing, isolation for patients with COVID-19, and quarantine for close contacts as strategies for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” this week’s report says.
“Furthermore, these findings demonstrate the rationale for consistent mitigation measures across states.”