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Minnesota first to report COVID-19 death linked to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Health officials in Minnesota have reported a COVID-19 death linked to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It is the first coronavirus fatality reported in connection with the rally, which drew hundreds of thousands of bikers to the small South Dakota town last month despite coronavirus concerns. 

The patient in Minnesota was in their 60s and had been hospitalized and in the ICU, an official from the Minnesota Department of Health told CBS News via email Wednesday. At least 50 cases in Minnesota have been linked to Sturgis, the official said.

Nationwide, over 250 coronavirus cases are reportedly linked to the rally, according to CBS Minnesota.

Last month, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming and Washington began using contact tracing to determine how many Sturgis visitors may have brought the virus back home with them. 

While bikers ride in open air, the rally also attracts huge crowds of patrons to bars, stores and other businesses around Sturgis where coronavirus can spread more easily. Some safety measures, like sanitizing sidewalks, were put in place, but masks were not required, City of Sturgis Public Information Officer Christina Steele told CBS News via email ahead of the event. 

CBS News has reached out to health officials from states with reported coronavirus cases connected to Sturgis and is awaiting their response. 

While health officials have warned against large gatherings during the pandemic, Sturgis city officials decided in an eight-to-one vote to go ahead with the rally, CBS affiliate KELO-TV reported.

In an email to CBS News, Steele said the "decision to hold the Rally came after hearing from thousands of attendees that they were coming to the event, even if it was canceled by the City of Sturgis."

The rally of motorcycle enthusiasts usually attracts an estimated 400,000 people, Steele told CBS News. But Sturgis won't have an official estimate of this year's attendees for several weeks, Steele said. "One of the major data points used in the calculation is the amount of State sales tax collected," she said in an email. "The state will not be able to provide this information until the end of September."

Officials in Minnesota reported 761 new cases and seven new COVID-19 deaths in the state on Wednesday.

The U.S. surpassed 6 million coronavirus cases earlier this week — reporting more cases than any other country. There have been over 185,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

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