ROCHESTER, Minn. — As organizers of the annual motorcycle convention in Sturgis, S.D., plan for a quarter of a million bikers to arrive over 10 days beginning next week, Minnesota state health officials said they had not discussed quarantining returning participants, but believe attendees should consider getting tested when they return.
"We're concerned with any large gathering bringing sustained contact of that nature," said state commissioner of health Jan Malcolm during an afternoon media call Monday, Aug. 3. "That it is sort of a recipe for something to happen. South Dakota has seen its spikes ... so it's not like they're going into an environment that has no risks."
Malcolm said the state expects to see new cases in Minnesota later in August and into September because of the rally. She added that participants should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and "consider getting tested five to seven days after the event because of the very real potential for spread."
"We've yet to have the discussion about quarantining people coming into Minnesota from out-of-state travel," Malcolm said in answer to a question raising the possibility. "But it's an interesting question about this specific event that we've not explicitly discussed one way or the other."
The rally website lists bars, campsites and a three-day outdoor concert schedule featuring dozens of heavy metal, country, rap and '80s-era hair metal bands, including "full-blown, national concerts." The promotional copy for concerts gave no indication social distancing will be part of the experience, but the homepage for the event listed protocols for vendors to encourage safer practices.
"Individuals who participate in the event, when they return, should really limit their social activity," added director of infectious disease Kris Ehresmann, "particularly if they work in an environment where there are vulnerable individuals. They should be aware that you're mixing not only with large groups of people, but people from all over the country."
Health officials said they have not seen additional cases yet from the single case identified Friday, July 31, following the rodeo last week in Effie, Minn., an event held in violation of the state public gathering capacity limits. That case brought news that state Attorney General Keith Ellison would initiate punitive actions against the organizers.
"We have not seen additional cases, although we are continuing to monitor for that," Ehresmann said. She added that "we certainly hope people would prioritize their health and that of others" to get a test, "over any concern about giving validity to cautions about the event."
Ehresmann said in a separate announcement that a scam currently is going around in the state, in which recipients receive a mailing, purportedly from the CDC, "that seeks to confuse people into not wearing a mask when it would be especially important to do so."
The mailing tells readers that dry cough, a well-known symptom of COVID-19, "is a sign of 'micro-molds in your mask,' and warrants its disposal." Ehresmann said that warning is false.
The state of Minnesota reported 622 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, Aug. 3. The total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the illness in the state is now 56,560.
The state received 370 complaints about potential bar and restaurant violations last week, a figure that led health officials to remind the public that ignoring mask orders endangers the ability of schools to reopen.
With 306 cases, Hennepin and Ramsey county had nearly half the state's new cases.
The state health department Monday also reported two deaths from the illness. One of the deaths was a person from Anoka County and one was a person from Dakota County. Neither were residents of long-term care. The state has now lost 1,616 people to the virus.
The state reported an additional 15,870 tests on Monday. The state's health systems and public health department has now conducted 1,070,925 tests on just over 872,000 residents.
ICU use for the illness rose by 4 to 153, while people hospitalized in non-ICU settings dropped by 4 to 149.
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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.