Minnesota health officials have identified a growing outbreak of a COVID-19 variant, known as the B117 variant, in Carver County, outside the Twin Cities.
Nearly 70 cases have been linked to students involved in school and club sports since late January, according to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Health. Officials are recommending a county-wide two-week pause on all youth sports beginning Monday.
The state is also recommending that youth sports elsewhere in Minnesota test weekly, avoid gathering before and after games and strictly enforce proper masking due to the possibility that the outbreak has spread to other counties.
"Investigation of sports cases and outbreaks will continue, and in counties where rapid spread is detected additional measures may become necessary," the release read.
Since Jan. 28 the state has confirmed 24 cases of the B117 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, through whole genome sequencing. Those cases have occurred in athletes, coaches and students.
“The variants circulating now present added risk that we may see another surge in cases and we need everyone to do their part to prevent that from happening," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. "That means masking, social distancing, staying home when sick and getting tested when appropriate.”
More than 1 million Minnesotans have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More than half of those people have completed their vaccine series.
Of those age 65 and older in Minnesota, nearly 62% have received at least one vaccine dose. On Feb. 25 Gov. Tim Walz announced that the state would vaccinate 70% of those over the age of 64 before expanding eligibility.
The state's vaccination data does not yet include doses administered in the last couple days.
State health officials also reported Saturday that another 975 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 more people have died from the illness and its complications.
Those who died ranged between the ages of 65 and 94. Two were residents of a long-term care or assisted living facility and one was a resident of group home or behavioral health living setting.
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