Coronavirus: Nebraska COVID-19 cluster linked to Sturgis motorcycle rally, health officials say

At least seven cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed in Nebraska’s panhandle have been linked to the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, health officials said late Thursday.

Kim Engel, director of the Panhandle Public Health District, said contact investigations confirmed Sturgis as the point of exposure for the Nebraska cases.

“They are scattered throughout the panhandle,” Engel said during a Thursday briefing, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald reported.

The latest Nebraska COVID-19 cases are the first outside of South Dakota officially linked to the annual 10-day gathering that began Aug. 7 and ran until Sunday, attracting more than 460,000 vehicles, according to South Dakota’s Department of Transportation.

“That gathering was the largest gathering that occurred in the world since the pandemic began,” Engel said. “It was a pretty significant event.”

Meanwhile, health officials in South Dakota confirmed Thursday that the state’s average number of daily new COVID-19 cases has increased by about 43% over the past two weeks, The Associated Press reported.

The South Dakota Department of Health made the first official link of a new COVID-19 case to the motorcycle rally in a news release issued Tuesday.

According to the news release, a South Dakota resident who visited One-Eyed Jack’s Saloon in Sturgis between noon and 5:30 p.m. Aug. 11 might have infected other patrons.

Meanwhile, officials said Thursday an employee of Asylum Tattoo Sturgis has tested positive and worked from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily between Aug. 13-18. Bumpin’ Buffalo Bar and Grill in Hill City was identified last week as having an employee who worked from 11 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Aug.9-11 who tested positive, the Star-Herald reported.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.