The Minnesota Department of Health has found at least 68 cases of a variant strain of the coronavirus in Carver County.
Many of the cases involving the variant, which originated in the United Kingdom and is dubbed B117, have been found among youth athletic groups and gyms. B117, like other worrisome strains of the coronavirus, is believed to be more contagious and possibly more likely to result in hospitalizations and deaths.
“The variants circulating now present added risk that we may see another surge in cases,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We are making progress in the effort to end this pandemic, but we need all Minnesotans to keep up their guard until the work is done.”
Since late January, health officials have confirmed many of the cases through whole genome sequencing. The other infections have strong links to confirmed cases.
Many of the cases are tied to school and club sports activities, including hockey, wrestling, basketball and alpine skiing. Multiple schools, both public and private, have confirmed cases.
Health officials also have seen an increase in cases in Carver County gyms and fitness centers, with many of the infections linked to the sports-related cases.
To control the spread, health officials are recommending a county-wide pause in youth sports for two weeks starting Monday. Due to the risk that the outbreak has spread to other counties, health officials also recommend that for youth sports elsewhere in Minnesota there should be active screening, weekly testing of athletes and coaches, no gatherings before or after games, and strict enforcement of proper masking.
MDH recommends schools maintain the hybrid learning model with full physical distancing, consider pausing extracurricular activities, reinforcement of mitigation strategies and limit gatherings outside of the household.
For gyms, fitness centers and pools, the Health Department recommends active screening for symptoms, strict adherence to masking, pausing group classes, and for high-risk members to consider not attending.
More information on prevention strategies for COVID-19 can be found on the MDH website.