MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The attendees of a crowded rodeo event in northern Minnesota, where images showed a high proportion of people not wearing masks, have been warned by state health officials that someone who attended the event last weekend has tested positive for COVID-19.
The North Star Stampede Rodeo in Effie, Minnesota celebrated its 65th annual event with many in attendance protesting the state’s COVID-19 restrictions by not wearing masks. The event took place July 25-27.
The Minnesota Department of Health reports that the person in question was there July 23 through July 26, and became sick on July 27.
Health officials warned that, while no other illnesses have been confirmed connected with the event, the incubation period for COVID-19 can be as long as 14 days for some people.
“People may have been infected with the virus, and we have an opportunity to prevent additional spread of the disease if we can get those in attendance to take the necessary precautions,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “If you attended this event, you should consider yourself potentially exposed. That means you should be watching for symptoms and if you do develop symptoms, seek health care and get tested. In the meantime, please limit your public interactions and activities for 14 days, practice social distancing and wear a mask during all interactions with others.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General Ketih Ellison said that his office is bringing forth enforcement action against the rodeo, charging that it “carelessly allowed large crowds to attend” without “taking required safety precautions.”
Ellison’s office says that, after the rodeo was contacted by the MDH prior to the event and asked whether they had precautions in place to prevent community spread, the owner hung up on them. The event then posted the following message to their Facebook page: “The North Star Stampede will take place with no spectators. If people would like to come and protest against this ridiculous Government Over Reach, feel free to do so, I will not stand in the way of peoples ‘Right to Assemble.’”
“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is everyone’s responsibility. It’s in all Minnesotans’ interest for businesses and events to comply with the law and the Governor’s executive orders so that we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and our livelihoods,” Attorney General Ellison said. “My office has been working successfully for months with businesses and events across Minnesota to help them understand the law and the Governor’s executive orders so that they can operate responsibly and keep Minnesotans safe during this pandemic. In most cases, we’ve reached agreement that leads to voluntary compliance. Because we take the health of Minnesota’s people and economy very seriously, we take our responsibility to educate and seek compliance very seriously.”
Ellison’s office seeks civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, along with restitution, disgorgement, and damages.
The company’s answering machine was not accepting messages Friday, according to Associated Press.
The MDH used the incident as an opportunity to remind Minnesotans of the measures everyone should be taking to avoid furthering the spread of the deadly disease, including wearing a mask in public, avoid enclosed spaces with groups of people, staying 6 feet away from others or further, and often washing hands for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer.