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.
Gov. Tim Walz said in a news release that the milestone is especially poignant considering Saturday marks one year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Minnesota.
"In Minnesota, we’ve built a strong network of providers across the state that can step up and deliver as we get more vaccine," Walz said. "I am grateful for all the hard work of so many people to get to this milestone today, and we stand ready to administer vaccines quickly and equitably as they come to our state — until every last Minnesotan has their chance to get a shot."
Due to increased vaccine supply, Minnesota's daily vaccination rate has increased in the last week. The state is now averaging almost 42,000 doses administered a day, according to the release.
Of those age 65 and older in Minnesota, nearly 62% have received at least one vaccine dose. On Feb. 25, Walz announced that the state would vaccinate 70% of those over the age of 64 before expanding eligibility.
The governor's office also reported that nearly 55% of Minnesota's pre-kindergarten through grade 12 staff and licensed child care providers have received a vaccine.
“We know our students learn best when they’re in person with their teachers, and in order to keep our educators safe, we have made it a priority to get them the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in a release.
The state's vaccination data does not yet include doses administered in the last couple days.
State health officials 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 ages 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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- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
- COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.
This story was last updated at 2:10 p.m. Mar. 6 with additional information from the governor's office. It was originally posted at 12:37 p.m. Mar. 6.