AG sues operator of northern Minnesota rodeo; one person infectious at event has tested positive

Photos show packed stands, no masks

Sloane Martin
July 31, 2020 - 6:55 pm

Attorney General Keith Ellison is suing the operator of an Itasca County rodeo alleging it “knowingly dismissed...risks and disregarded restrictions” when crowds of thousands gathered last weekend in Effie, Minn.

According to Ellison’s office it’s the first action brought against an entertainment venue to enforce the governor’s executive order 20-74 which prohibits gatherings of more than 250 people or 25 percent capacity. The rodeo happened July 24-26.

Health officials have determined through contact tracing that one known person was infectious while at the rodeo and has since tested positive.

“From our case investigation it’s pretty clear that the current executive orders aren’t benign adhered to as well as we need them to be,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

State Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said organizers at one point had been working with state agencies leading up to the rodeo seeking guidance

“We had provided information about the limits of size and then the organizers made a decision,” she said. “They reached a point of frustration, I think, with what the executive order meant. And they reached a point at which they decided that they would hold the event.”

According to the complaint, the owner of North Star Ranch wrote on Facebook that while the rodeo would operate without spectators, “I will not stand in the way” of people protesting “this ridiculous Government Over Reach (sic).”

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Minnesota Attorney General's office

MDH says anyone who attended should watch for symptoms because other cases of exposure are possible.

“We’re concerned about the individual case and the individual event,” Ehresmann said, “but we’re also concerned about how that event as a stone in a lake kind of has a ripple effect going out.”

Itasca County currently sits at a cumulative case rate of 27 per 100,000 residents. Neighbors St. Louis and Aitkin Counties stand at 15, while Beltrami is 27. Itasca has reported 125 total cases and 12 deaths.

Health officials will be watching to see if any cases derive from the large rodeo, but they’re just as concerned by other methods of community spread. The percent of cases with no known exposure, like a rodeo, for example, is at a pandemic-high 35 percent.

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Minnesota Attorney General's office

Community spread is one of the state’s so-called dial back factors that health officials are studying to determine if Minnesota needs to take a step back from its re-opened status...

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation and restitution or damages to the state.

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Minnesota Attorney General's office


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