LACONIA — Six New Hampshire residents who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally have been diagnosed as having contracted the coronavirus, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday.
More than 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases in at least eight states have been associated with the Sturgis event which took place Aug. 7 through 16, The Associated Press reported.
State health officials said residents who were in Sturgis should get tested for COVID-19. Furthermore, they should also quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days after returning to the state, even if they have had a COVID test which turned out negative, the agency said.
“Because there are multiple locations in Sturgis with potential community exposure and the number of confirmed cases associated with the event will continue to increase, anyone who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have been exposed and potentially contracted COVID-19,” the agency said in a new release.
DHHS declined in an email sent to The Daily Sun to say whether any of the six New Hampshire people who tested positive were residents of either Belknap County or Laconia, citing privacy reasons.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, returned from Sturgis early last week after having attended the South Dakota rally. The event attracted more than 460,000 vehicles, according to the state’s transportation department.
St. Clair said last week he had received two COVID tests after returning to New Hampshire, and that both tests showed a negative result.
St. Clair could not be reached by phone, and a text message sent to him requesting comment was unanswered Wednesday afternoon.
While he was at the rally St. Clair said he was staying away from downtown Sturgis, and instead was traveling around western South Dakota sightseeing.
Scenes at Sturgis showing people crowded into bars and other venues prompted Gov. Chris Sununu to issue an emergency order last week requiring people in crowds of 100 or more to wear face masks.
“Sturgis was a clear warning sign to us,” Sununu said at a news conference last Tuesday. “I don't think anybody saw the photos out of Sturgis and said that looks good.”
The state also announced it would step up enforcement of pandemic precautions at bars in and around Weirs Beach during the Laconia rally which began last Saturday and concludes Sunday.
Laconia officials have said that because steps designed to significantly reduce crowds they are confident that risk of contracting the coronavirus during the Laconia rally is much lower than in Sturgis, where there were huge crowds of patrons in bars, stores and other businesses.
Laconia this year banned vendor booths, outdoor music stages, and so-called beer tents. Not limiting Lakeside Avenue in Weirs Beach to just motorcycle traffic and parking was another change designed to reduce crowds.