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Some who attended Sturgis motorcycle event have coronavirus, South Dakota officials say

Fans attend a performance at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Fans attend an event Aug. 14 during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D.
(Amy Harris / Invision)

South Dakota health officials have warned that a number of people who attended the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this month, including some who came from out of state, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Department of Health officials said Thursday that fewer than 25 rallygoers tested positive, but they did not give an exact number. The rally, which ended Sunday, brought hundreds of thousands of people to the city in the western part of the state. Even before it kicked off, some locals and officials expressed concern that COVID-19 could spread rapidly at the rally and that it would be hard to track rallygoers who got infected before heading home.

The state’s health department has received reports from other states that people who traveled to the rally have tested positive, state epidemiologist Josh Clayton said.

Contact tracers have been able to work with most people to determine whom they were around and may have infected. But the health department has issued public warnings for two bars — one in Sturgis and the other at a popular stop for riders along U.S. Highway 385 near Mt. Rushmore. Clayton said officials did not know how many people were exposed at the bars.

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The health department did not immediately reply to a question about what other states have reported infections among people who attended the rally.

Sturgis is planning to conduct mass testing of its residents next week in an attempt to stem a possible spread of infections from the rally.

The rally news comes amid an increase in the coronavirus infection rate in South Dakota. Health officials reported Thursday that there were 125 new confirmed cases of the virus and two new deaths from COVID-19. Over the last two weeks, the average number of daily new cases has increased by 32, an increase of about 43%.

With schools in the state set to welcome back students to the classroom in the coming days, health officials said they plan to track and release data on infections among students, teachers and staff. They have found fewer than 40 school-related cases statewide so far, but they said they would not be breaking those infections down by the school districts where they occurred.

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Clayton said the schools will notify students and parents when they find cases, but the health department is reporting the total number of cases to give a statewide view on infections in schools.

Since the pandemic started, South Dakota has had 10,884 confirmed cases. The state’s death toll from the disease caused by the coronavirus stands at 159.


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