Dozens of coronavirus cases linked to South Dakota’s annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally have now been traced across state lines to nearby Nebraska and Minnesota.
The annual rally held in Sturgis that drew more than 460,000 vehicles over 10 days had raised concerns among health officials amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photos from the event, which ran from August 7-16, showed a few people wearing masks and social distancing but many others packed close together at bars and rock shows throughout the event.
Days after the rally concluded and people traveled home across the US, at least two dozens cases in South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota have been linked to the event.
At least seven cases in Nebraska’s pandhandle region in the state’s west have been linked to the rally.
The Panhandle Public Health District said they had already completed contract tracing for those confirmed infections.
South Dakota’s health department issued several warnings last week saying that three people who spent several hours at bars in Sturgis and a tattoo parlor had tested positive.
The state has been experiencing an uptick of COVID-19 infections with cases steadily rising over the last month.
Meanwhile, health officials in Minnesota confirmed that 15 residents had tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at the rally.
One patient was hospitalized as of Friday, according to Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health.
The first Sturgis-linked case was reported on Thursday, while the 14 others were added the following day.
Minnesota’s officials have warned that they expect the number of infections to grow.
‘We’re expecting that we’re going to see many more cases associated with Sturgis,’ Ehresmann said.
‘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.’
One Minnesota patient was a temporary employee at a bar that hosted rally events while the others were there just to attend. It is not clear where or how the 15 Minnesotans became exposed.
The 15 stayed at multiple campgrounds and visited multiple bars in the area.
The Sturgis rally brought hundreds of thousands of people to western South Dakota.
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.
Cellphone data managed to track the movement of rallygoers in and out of Sturgis in the days leading up to the event.
Maps created by data visualization company Tectonix, with the help of location-data firms X-Mode Social and SafeGraph, shows the extent of the widespread travel from across the country.
The majority of those who traveled to Sturgis came from the Midwest and South, according to the tracking data.
Many came from Sunbelt states with large coronavirus outbreaks, including Texas, Arizona and Georgia.