Coronavirus cases linked to the Sturgis motorcycle event

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South Dakota health officials have warned that a number of people who attended the 10-day Sturgis motorcycle rally this month, including some from out of state, have been tested positive for the coronavirus.Health ministry officials said on Thursday that fewer than 25 rally participants tested positive, but did not give an exact figure. The rally, which ended on Sunday, brought hundreds of thousands of people to the city’s western state. Even before kick-off, some locals and officials expressed concern that COVID-19 could spread quickly at the rally and that it would be difficult to track infected rally participants before returning home.

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

Contact tracers were able to work with most people to determine who they were around and who might have been infected. But the health department has issued public warnings for two bars – one in Sturgis and the other at a popular stop for cyclists along US Route 385 near Mt. Rushmore. Clayton said officials did not know how many people were exposed in the bars.

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

Sturgis plans to conduct mass tests on its residents next week in an attempt to stem a possible spread of infections from the rally.

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

While schools across the state are expected to welcome students back to class in the coming days, health officials said they plan to track and release data on infections among students, teachers and the staff. They have so far found less than 40 school-related cases statewide, but said they would not break down these infections by the school districts where they occurred.

Clayton said schools will notify students and parents when they find cases, but the health department was reporting the total number of cases to give the state a big picture of infections in schools.

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

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