State health officials say they have traced back an outbreak of COVID-19 to a Minnesota youth wrestling tournament that was held this year in the relatively restriction-free state of South Dakota.
The Minnesota Department of Health says it has confirmed 16 cases of COVID-19 so far linked to the Northland Youth Wrestling Association (NYWA) 2021 State Wrestling Tournament, which was held between March 31 and April 3 at the Premier Center Complex in Sioux Falls.
A report from the Keloland Media Group in Sioux Falls said that the tournament was moved to South Dakota because the state "isn't restricting crowds" unlike Minnesota, which recently loosened restrictions but still limits indoor venues to 15% capacity above 500, maximum capacity to 3,000, and requires seating to be spaced and guests to remain seated.
The Minnesota Department of Health has asked for anyone who attended the tournament, which was for Minnesota youth club wrestling teams "and included approximately 2,000 wrestlers in addition to spectator," to get tested immediately and monitor for symptoms.
The 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have come from nine counties: Cass, Le Sueur, Lyon, Morrison, Murray, Rice, Todd, Wright and Yellow Medicine.
"To date, eight schools have confirmed cases associated with the event, including six public schools and two non-public schools," MDH added.
With the more contagious B.1.1.7 U.K. variant of COVID-19 becoming increasingly dominant in Minnesota, the risk of transmission is greater, and MDH says that "due to the close proximity and contact with opponents, wrestling carries a high risk for transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19."
"Given the reported lack of mitigation, such as masking and social distancing, among participants and spectators at the tournament, health officials warn there is an increased risk of COVID-19 from the event," it added.
"We ask Minnesotans to please be patient and to continue to use prevention measures, and not to gather in large groups of people, particularly indoors, and please continue to wear masks and physically distance," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist and medical director for MDH. "For those who are eligible, we need folks to get vaccinated; vaccination is how we will overcome this pandemic."
The department says that 64 teams from 52 Minnesota counties participated in the competition, including all 7 counties in the Twin Cities.