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15 Minnesotans catch coronavirus at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

August 21, 2020 GMT
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FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2016 file photo, bikers ride down Main Street in downtown Sturgis, S.D., before the 76th Sturgis motorcycle rally officially begins. South Dakota, which has seen an uptick in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, is bracing to host hundreds of thousands of bikers for the 80th edition of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Over a quarter of a million people are expected to rumble through western South Dakota. (Josh Morgan/Rapid City Journal via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2016 file photo, bikers ride down Main Street in downtown Sturgis, S.D., before the 76th Sturgis motorcycle rally officially begins. South Dakota, which has seen an uptick in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, is bracing to host hundreds of thousands of bikers for the 80th edition of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Over a quarter of a million people are expected to rumble through western South Dakota. (Josh Morgan/Rapid City Journal via AP, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Fifteen Minnesota residents have contracted the coronavirus after being exposed during the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, Minnesota health officials said Friday, warning that they expect the number to grow.

One patient was hospitalized as of Friday, said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. The first Sturgis-linked case was reported Thursday, she said, while the 14 others were added Friday.

“We’re expecting that we’re going to see many more cases associated with Sturgis,” Ehresmann said during a briefing for reporters. “Thousands of people attended that event, and so it’s very likely that we’ll see more transmission. Obviously it takes a while for people to develop symptoms and get tested and for us to get those results.”

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The Sturgis rally, which ended Sunday, brought hundreds of thousands of people to western South Dakota. The Minnesota announcement followed a warning Thursday from South Dakota Department of Health officials that a number of people who attended the rally had come down with the COVID-19 virus, including some from out of state. They did not give an exact number of attendees who tested positive, but said it was less than 25.

Even before the rally kicked off, some locals and officials had expressed concern that the virus could spread rapidly in South Dakota, which has no special limits on indoor crowds and no mask mandates. They also cautioned that it would be hard to track down attendees who got infected before heading home.

One Minnesota patient was a temporary employee at a bar that hosted rally events while the others were there just to attend, Ehresmann said. But she had little other information on where or how they became exposed. The 15 stayed at multiple campgrounds and visited multiple bars in the area, she said.

“If you did go to Sturgis, it’s best to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return,” she advised. “Also, if you are feeling ill after returning from the event, please get tested and self-isolate while you wait for the test results.”