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Minnesota wedding linked to 70 coronavirus cases, officials say

The wedding was followed by a reception and a dance, all indoors, health officials said.
/ Source: NBC News

A summer wedding in southwest Minnesota is the source of at least 70 coronavirus cases, state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Wednesday.

The number has grown from 58 on Friday to 70 at last count, she said by email.

The wedding, reception and "dance" took place Aug. 22 at KB’s Bar and Grill in the small town of Ghent, regional health authority Southwest Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Ehresmann described the festivities as "indoors" and said they exceeded state capacity and social distancing rules.

Southwest Health and Human Services in late August asked attendees and their close contacts to voluntarily quarantine.

At a news conference last week, Ehresmann expressed concern that attendees weren't taking the situation seriously enough. "We’re hearing that people are not being tested to avoid driving numbers up," she said.

Those who avoid being tested "just make it worse" because they could be unknowingly infected others, Ehresmann said. "None of us are an island," she said.

The Minnesota Department of Health is unable to track secondary transmission affiliated with the wedding and other events, such as Sturgis, South Dakota's motorcycle rally, which is the source of 51 cases in Minnesota, state officials said during their latest news conference Wednesday.

They suggested the department has its hands full just tracking cases directly related to noncompliant events.

Ehresmann said the department is continuing to track patients who attended the wedding. Among them are people, including "educators, long-term care workers, and health care workers" who spanned nine Minnesota counties, she said.

Gov. Tim Walz said last week that social gatherings indoors and outside are contributing to a higher than average number of cases in the state.

"Families mixing together not in their immediate family," he said. "That’s exactly the type of thing we’re seeing is having an impact on some of the spread."

The state has counted 81,868 COVID-19 cases and 1,869 deaths.

Health officials in Maine have said an Aug. 7 wedding in Penobscot County was the source of at least 147 coronavirus cases, including secondary infections. Three deaths have been linked to the wedding, which 65 people attended, according to the state's Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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