ROCHESTER, Minn. — The state of Minnesota reported on Wednesday, Sept. 2, the first death from COVID-19 traced to the motorcycle rally last month in Sturgis, S.D. The deceased was a metro-area individual in their 60s with underlying health conditions who was hospitalized in intensive care.
Health officials said the number of cases in Minnesota tied to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendance has now reached 50, and that there are more cases due to secondary spread from these attendees not included in that number.
At this point, there have been 289 cases total in 11 counties related to attendance at the Sturgis rally, according to information compiled by Forum News Service and Max Bayer with CBS News.
During a news conference Wednesday state Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann said that contact tracing hadn't identified anything unique about how the individual came into contact with the illness at the rally.
"We don't have any specific activities that the individual participated in," Ehresmann said. "The cases that we have interviewed who attended Sturgis indicated that they attended multiple events, stayed at multiple campgrounds, were inside, outside, and I think given the number of individuals that were participating in the Sturgis event, it's fair to say that pretty much everyone was in a crowded setting. "
Health officials stressed that, in terms of COVID-19 transmission risk, being outside is no different than being inside if you do not follow social distancing, handwashing and masking practices in close company with others.
"I've gotten a lot of questions about indoor and outdoor activities and I want to be clear that while we have very much said that being outside is preferable to inside," Ehresmann said. "All things considered, being outside does not eliminate risk and being outside if you're not socially distanced, if you're not wearing a mask, if you're not attentive to all the other mitigation measures, it doesn't save you from COVID."
The death related to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was one of seven deaths reported Wednesday, including one individual each from Dakota, Kannabec, Martin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties, and two individuals from Hennepin County. The deceased include one person in their early 60s (Dakota County) and one in their late 60s (Hennepin County). All other deaths were people in their 80s.
Of the seven deaths, five were residents of long-term care, and one was a resident of a group home. To date, 1,830 Minnesotans have died of the illness.
The state reported 27,487 tests on Wednesday, an elevated number due to a backlog of 16,865 tests that were awaiting reporting, most from delays by Valley Medical clinic system. In actuality, the state conducted 10,829 tests for the most recent day.
The state recorded another 761 cases of COVID-19, on Wednesday, bringing the new laboratory-confirmed total to 77,085. Because 267 of these cases were due to the backlog in reporting, the day's true new case total is 419 cases.
For the second day in a row, the suburban ring of the Twin Cities had greater new case counts than the urban core. Hennepin and Ramsey counties had a combined 234 cases, while Anoka, Dakota, Washington, Carver and Scott counties reported a combined 267 cases.
Much of this could be due to the case reporting backlog, but the metro suburbs have recently had a higher rate of illness per capita than the urban core.
The state says it will soon make a URL available to offer a personal COVID-19 saliva test kit to all who work in child care or schools, and that the test can be used at the essential worker's discretion if they feel they have come in contact with the virus.
Health officials Wednesday also debunked an internet rumor alleging that children who test positive are taken from families by protective services.
"It's hard to believe we're at a point where such nonsense needs to be addressed, but let me take a moment to state clearly that this rumor is false," said Ehresmann, who asked that the public "take this moment to step back, take a deep breath, and reflect on where we find ourselves now with online misinformation."
Ehresmann said misinformation often starts innocently as accurate information is garbled, but that other times it is intentionally sent around for reasons unknown.
"The bottom line is we all need to exercise caution and to not rely on social media or unverified, unfamiliar websites for our news."
There are currently 297 persons hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota, with 135 of those in an ICU setting.
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- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
- COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.