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Here's the latest:
Health officials in 12 states have linked over 260 COVID-19 cases to the widely-attended Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota last month, and now one attendee has died.
On August 22nd, only a few dozen cases were attributed to the rally, which ran between August 7th and 16th and attracted an estimated 365,000 from across the country. Attendees were photographed and filmed not wearing masks; an AP reporter spotted "fewer than 10 [wearing face coverings] in a crowd of thousands over a period of several hours." Merchandise sold at the event included a t-shirt that read, "Screw COVID. I went to Sturgis."
Now, according to the Dickinson Press, "263 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the event, with 105 in South Dakota alone, as well Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Montana, Washington, New Jersey and Wisconsin." The event and aftermath also highlight the failures of the nation's efforts to test and trace. The report reads, "It will likely never be clear how many cases of COVID-19 across the country are connected to the Sturgis rally due to the lack of a national test and contact tracing system. The state-by-state patchwork nature of COVID-19 notifications is built to find and notify close contacts and publicize specific public exposures, not track the cross-state spread of the virus from a massive event."
Further, the Washington Post reports, "Epidemiologists believe that [the 263] figure is a significant undercount, due to the resistance of some rallygoers to testing and the limited contact tracing in some states. As a result, the true scope of infections stemming from the event is unlikely to ever be known."
The rider who died was a Minnesota resident in his 60s with underlying health conditions. He had been hospitalized after being diagnosed with the coronavirus and had been in intensive care.
At least 49 other COVID cases in Minnesota can be traced back to the rally, and one with a confirmed infection "spread the virus at a recent wedding, state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said earlier this week," according to the Star-Tribune.
NY State's Positivity Rate Under 1% For 26th Straight Day
Governor Andrew Cuomo offered his daily update of NY State coronavirus statistics by announcing that New York's overall infection rate (or positivity rate) is still under one percent, for the 26th day in a row. On Tuesday, 0.80% of tests were positive, with 88,477 tests completed, with 708 new COVID cases and new cases in 39 counties. All NY State regions are under one percent, except for the western region, where there has been a spike; their positivity rate for Tuesday was 1.7%.
Five people's deaths from the virus were reported on Tuesday.
The governor heralded the streak in a statement, "Defeating COVID-19 requires a shared commitment among all New Yorkers to wear masks, socially distance and wash hands, and I thank them for listening to state guidance and taking social action to get us to this point today. 26 straight days with an infection rate below 1 percent is no mean feat. However, high case levels throughout the country are storm clouds on the horizon, and we have to stay vigilant in partnership with the enforcement of local governments. We're all in this together, and we'll get through it together—stay tough, New York."
SUNY Geneseo Fraternities, Sorority Suspended For Throwing Pandemic Parties
Just as SUNY Oneonta was cancelling classes for two weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among students, SUNY Geneseo suspended two fraternities and one sorority—plus nine students—for violating pandemic safety guidelines.
The Theta Chi and Zeta Beta Xi fraternities and the Sigma Delta Tau sorority were placed under interim suspension after for parties. According to WHEC, "Geneseo Police Chief Eric Osganian said since August 22nd, they've responded to eight different parties and large gatherings off campus, some with more than 40 people in one place."
SUNY Geneseo President Denis Batles emphasized that any gatherings "including those off-campus" must "adhere to proper mask wearing, physical distancing, and occupancy limits."
SUNY Oneonta has identified 245 coronavirus cases, which administrators believe resulted from large parties. And fraternities and sororities have been a source of concern as magnets for the virus, as their social life revolves around parties. In recent days, the University of South Carolina has suspended Greek organizations for violating rules, while students at Ohio State University fraternities and sororities have tested positive for COVID. An Ohio State spokesperson said "the university was not overseeing organization-specific policies for outbreaks in Greek life housing. Specific plans are made by each chapter’s national office."
Geneseo junior Natalie Orman told WHAM, "My friends and I have been talking about, it’s a bit stressful and worrying to not feel safe in these types of environment anymore because people want to go out and not listen to the rules," while freshman Torianna Robleto told WHEC, "I’m definitely a party person so I was really looking forward to a party, but once the pandemic hit I knew that wasn't going to be a possibility."
Geneseo resident Mike Gburek said he's seeing "more porch parties when we’re walking in the afternoon. Large gathering of kids, no masks." His message for his hard partying peers: "We will have vaccines, it’s coming, it’s going to be here. Be patient; it’s not your whole life, but it could be our life you’re risking."