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UPDATE: 236 COVID-19 cases traced back to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
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UPDATE: 236 COVID-19 cases traced back to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

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State health officials said Monday that 105 South Dakotans who attended the Sturgis motorcycle rally “prior to becoming ill” now have COVID-19.

State epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said he didn’t have the most recent data on out-of-state cases reported back to the DOH and associated with the rally, but the Journal has found 131 cases:

  • Minnesota: 49

  • North Dakota: 30

  • Colorado: 20
  • Wyoming: 10

  • Nebraska: 7

  • Montana: 6

  • New Hampshire: 6

  • Wisconsin: 2

  • Washington: 1

The DOH reported 187 new cases across the state Monday, including 26 in Pennington County. Monday’s report brought the state's total to 13,509 cases with 10,612 considered recovered and 2,730 active.

Monday’s report drove the exponential growth in active cases even higher across the state. Last Monday, there were 1,570 active cases and 11,425 total cases.

New cases were also reported in the following area counties: Butte (1), Custer (1), Fall River (4), Lawrence (8), Meade (6) and Oglala Lakota (1).

As of Monday’s report, 76 people were hospitalized with coronavirus across the state with 23 in Monument Health’s system as of Monday. 1,029 South Dakotans have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at some point in the pandemic.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon, state health secretary, said the COVID-19 death rate is in a “downward trend” for the state, pointing to a weekly report ending Sunday which showed a 33.1% reduction in deaths due to COVID-19 compared to the prior week.

But Clayton said he would “caution” that “while it’s good news this week, we want to make sure individuals realize we have increasing numbers of cases” and said he anticipates the death rate will increase in the coming weeks.

When asked if the DOH is being transparent enough in their daily case counts or posting accurate numbers to covid.sd.gov, Malsam-Rysdon defended her department’s track record and said that it is transparent when there are issues, citing Thursday’s “aberration” as an example.

“There’s people that don’t like the numbers, so they like to think that maybe they’re not true because they don’t like them,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “Our duty and our resolve will be to provide accurate numbers, regardless of what they are.”

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To those who are skeptical of data accuracy, Malsam-Rysdon said she would ask “what their facts are to dispute” the case numbers.

“We hear all kinds of theories around cover-ups of data at the federal level and more often than not when we can get the information that people are relying on, we can help educate them as to what they’re not considering in terms of those numbers,” she said.

Clayton said it can be difficult for some people to “reconcile” with numbers like the 13,509 cases the DOH reported Monday, especially for people who haven’t personally had COVID-19, or who don’t personally know someone who had coronavirus.

“We don’t have many other conditions that we deal with where we would have that large of a number in such a short period of time,” Clayton said, noting this is an “unprecedented” situation.

College cases

As of noon Monday, South Dakota’s public universities have the following active COVID-19 case counts:

  • South Dakota Mines: 35 students, 1 staff, 75 staff and students quarantined

  • Black Hills State University: 11 students, 0 staff, 45 students and staff quarantined

  • University of South Dakota: 237 students, 5 staff, 590 students and staff quarantined

  • South Dakota State University: 89 students, 2 staff, 282 students and staff quarantined

  • Northern State University: 16 students, 1 staff, 51 students and staff quarantined

  • Dakota State University: 2 students, 0 staff, 18 students and staff quarantined

Universities are not releasing the total number of cases on their campuses, only the number of active cases on a given day. Providing the number of total cases to the public would show how much of campus has been affected with COVID-19 over time.

When asked if the DOH could influence the universities to share the number of total cases, Malsam-Rysdon said the question should be addressed to the South Dakota Board of Regents. 

The SDBOR previously told the Journal they would consider sharing total cases, but that the goal is to “improve information sharing by providing a current snapshot of the active cases on campus.”

The DOH’s weekly report on the statewide number of cases among the K-12 school and college population shows that 552 total cases have been reported within the state's colleges, universities and technical colleges among 518 students and 34 staff. 481 of all cases were reported between Aug. 23 to 29.

In K-12 schools, 195 total cases have been reported among 138 students and 57 staff, with 124 of the total cases reported between Aug. 23 to 29.

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