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Person tests positive after attending rodeo in Effie, civil suit filed

A person tests positive after the North Star Stampede. A person tests positive after the North Star Stampede. |  Photo: Mn Attorney General's office

Updated: July 31, 2020 03:04 PM

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a civil lawsuit against the Itasca County ranch that went ahead with a public rodeo last weekend despite warnings about how many people could attend the event.

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The civil complaint filed Friday against North Star Ranch, LLC, accuses the Effie ranch of violating the governor's emergency executive order when it allowed large crowds to attend its annual North Star Stampede without taking required safety precautions against the spread of COVID-19.  The event happened July 24 to 26.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Friday that at least one person has tested positive for COVID-19 and was infectious at the time they attended the rodeo. State health officials are urging people who attended the rodeo to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and to take precautions to limit spread.

The person developed symptoms July 27 and tested positive the same day for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease. Because people are infectious several days before symptom onset, health officials determined the person was infectious while at the event.  

Ellison says a representatives from his office and the health department spoke with the owner of the ranch before the rodeo to discuss required safety precautions. According to the attorney general's office, during that call, the owner became agitated and hung up the phone.

The owner subsequently made a post on his Facebook page saying that the rodeo would take place with no spectators, but that people were free to "come and protest against this ridiculous government overreach."

A civil complaint includes pictures of packed stands at the event with virtually no attendees wearing masks. The complaint alleges that the rodeo accepted “donations” and that attendees observed rodeo events, cheered for rodeo participants, and were entertained by a rodeo clown.

Ellison said in a news release that his office has been working with businesses and events across Minnesota for months to help them understand the law and the governor's orders. In most cases, he says they have reached agreements that led to voluntary compliance, but his office is charged with enforcing the law when people don't comply.

“Business owners and event operators need to know that they are not above the law. If they risk the health and safety of our communities, my office will take strong action, as we are doing today," Ellison said in a news release.

Ellison said this is the first action his office has brought to enforce the executive order. The civil complaint seeks civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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