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COVID-19 death tied to Sturgis Rally reported in Minnesota

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2020 file photo, people congregate at One-Eyed Jack's Saloon during the...
FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2020 file photo, people congregate at One-Eyed Jack's Saloon during the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D.. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota from Aug. 7 to 16. Minnesota health officials reported Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, that a man in his 60s who attended the rally died from COVID-19.(APAP Photo/Stephen Groves File)
Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 2:14 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Minnesota man who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota last month has died from COVID-19, Minnesota health officials reported on Wednesday.

The death is the first reported that is possibly linked to the biker rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people. Infections among rallygoers have been reported among 269 people in 12 states spanning coast to coast, according to a survey from the Associated Press. The rally went forward despite fears it could become a super-spread event, with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem welcoming bikers and the tourist dollars they spend.

Rallygoers crowded into bars and rock shows, mostly ignoring social distancing recommendations. Few wore masks.

Kris Ehresmann, infectious-disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health, said health officials have also seen infections spread from people who attended Sturgis, but those infections weren’t included in the state’s count of Sturgis-linked infections, which stood at 50 on Wednesday.

She said people who attended the rally have reported moving between events, campgrounds and indoor and outdoor spaces.

“Pretty much everyone was in a crowded setting,” Ehresmann said.

The man who died in Minnesota was in his 60s, had underlying health conditions and was hospitalized before he died, according to Ehresmann.

The Washington Post first reported the death.

For 10 days in August, the rally created a travel hub in western South Dakota comparable to a major U.S. city, according to an analysis of anonymous cellphone data from Camber Systems, a firm that aggregates cellphone activity for health researchers. The researches found that 61% of all the counties in the U.S. have been visited by someone who attended Sturgis.

South Dakota has seen the bulk of cases tied to the rally, with the Department of Health reporting 105 tied to the rally. The city of Sturgis made coronavirus tests available to residents and city employees after the rally in an attempt to uncover people who had infections but no symptoms.

The state has experienced a surge in cases in recent weeks, currently ranking third in the country for new cases per capita over the past two weeks.

Cases among people who attended the rally have been reported in 11 other states, from Washington state to New Jersey.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.