First coronavirus death occurs linked to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota

Officials announced the first known COVID-19 death linked to last month's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which brought 400,000 people to South Dakota.

A male biker in his 60s with underlying conditions died after visiting the rally, a Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson confirmed to The Hill. The Minnesota resident had been hospitalized in an intensive care unit for several weeks after the rally.

His case is among at least 260 cases in 11 states connected to the rally, according to a survey of health departments conducted by The Washington Post. Out of the states that have connected cases to the Sturgis rally, held from Aug. 7 to Aug. 16, South Dakota has recorded the most, at 105.

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But public health officials say the Post’s overall count is likely an undercount, noting rallygoers' resistance to testing and limited contact-tracing programs in some states. 

The news of the first death comes as the Midwest and the Dakotas are confronting a rise in coronavirus cases while the rest of the country reports decreasing or steady daily case counts. Kris Ehresmann, the infectious diseases director at the Minnesota Department of Health, told the Post that the increase in the region can be attributed to people attending gatherings and not following coronavirus guidelines.

An analysis of anonymized cellphone conducted by Camber Systems found at least 61 percent of all U.S. counties have now been visited by a Sturgis rally attendee. 

Most people who attended the event did not take coronavirus precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, The Associated Press reported at the time.

The South Dakota Health Department said last month that a customer at a bar on Aug. 11 had tested positive for coronavirus. It called for all those at the bar between noon and 5:30 p.m. to “monitor for symptoms” for two weeks.