Though we already knew the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this summer was linked to COVID-19 cases throughout the midwest — including at least 35 in Minnesota — the fallout from the event may be much worse than originally thought.
A new report from the Washington Post says there have been a number of challenges in tracking the spread of coronavirus from the rally, which happens every August in western South Dakota.
Among those is "the failure of state and local health officials to identify and monitor attendees returning home, or to trace chains of transmission after people got sick," while a number of attendees suspected of having the virus "refused to be tested," a Minnesota Department of Health official tells the paper.
The Post says more than 330 COVID-19 cases and at least one death have been directly linked to the rally, though "experts say that tally represents just the tip of the iceberg," which is why some believe the event — which hosted about half a million people — "played a role in the outbreak now consuming the Upper Midwest."
As Reuters reports, coronavirus cases have surged in midwestern states, with many reporting record one-day increases of new infections this past week.
Those include Wisconsin, where new cases rose by 3,747 on Thursday.
Minnesota also set a single-day record for COVID-19 cases last week, with 2,287 reported on Friday.
Before the Sturgis rally, health officials were sounding alarm bells about the safety of the event, including Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who stated that she was disappointed the festival wasn't postponed due to the size of the crowds amid a pandemic.
"We know this draws people from many states so there are people coming into the event from high-incidence states," she said two days before the festival began. "It's a pretty ripe environment for further spread and folks bringing the virus back to their home communities."
South Dakota, home of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, is also seeing a troubling uptick in COVID-19 cases.
The state has broken its previous record for infections; as the Associated Press notes, the COVID Tracking Project says "South Dakota’s 14-day average positivity rate of nearly 24%" is more than four times the national average.