BEMIDJI -- A new strain of coronavirus, first identified in the United Kingdom, is now in Minnesota, and it has health officials reminding residents to maintain precautions.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the new variant strain has been reported in five residents who live in four Twin Cities metro area counties. Four of them were identified through MDH's laboratory and the fifth was through testing at the Center for Disease Control.

The cases, MDH reports, range in age from 15 to 37. The residents tested positive between Dec. 16-31, and none have been hospitalized.

"While it is thought to be more easily spread from one person to another, it has not been found to cause more serious disease," said State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield in a release. "With RNA viruses, like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, it is not unexpected to see new, more successful strains emerge."

Studies have indicated the new coronavirus vaccines are effective against this variant strain, MDH noted in the release. As of Jan. 8, the CDC has identified 63 cases of the UK variant strain in eight states.

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"We're seeing that it appears to transmit more readily, which means people really need to be even more careful with their masking, social distancing and staying away from crowds," Beltrami County Public Health Director Cynthia Borgen told the Pioneer.

Since the pandemic started, the county has recorded 3,017 cases of the coronavirus.

"Between the extra concern about a new catchy type of virus, as well as this period where we're just getting people their second (vaccine) dose, we need people to be patient for a while longer," Borgen said. "Especially with this new variant, and as the community opens up more. If we want to keep things open, we have to be more cautious about our behavior."

“It’s important to note that this variant strain of the virus has been found in other states in the U.S., so we were expecting to find the virus in Minnesota,” said Lynfield in the release. “Knowing that it is now here does not change our current public health recommendations.”