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First COVID-19 death tied to Sturgis Rally reported in Minnesota

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A motorcyclist wears a face mask during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 7, 2020 in Sturgis, South Dakota. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — 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 from the biker rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people. Infections linked to the event have been reported among people in states spanning the U.S. 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.

The man who died in Minnesota was in his 60s, had underlying health conditions and was in an intensive care unit at a hospital before he died, said Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health.

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 researchers 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 identify people who had infections but no symptoms.

Twenty percent of the population, totaling 650 people, were tested. Of those tested, 26 came back positive. All were asymptomatic at the time of testing.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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