Publish date:

MDH: New COVID strain likely broadly circulating in Minnesota

Health officials believe the new strain is broadly circulating in Minnesota.
Author:

While only four counties have been confirmed to be home to people who have tested positive for the new SARS-CoV-2 variant, health officials warn that the coronavirus mutation is likely circulating in other parts of Minnesota. 

The four counties where the virus strain has been confirmed are all in the Twin Cities metro area: Carver County, Dakota County, Hennepin County and Ramsey County. 

There are a total of five confirmed cases of the new variant, known as B117, with the ages of the people ranging from 15 to 37, none of whom to MDH's knowledge have required hospitalization. 

"This is circulating in Minnesota. We've identified cases in four counties but that does not mean that it's confined to four counties. We've been looking for this, so we know it's circulating in multiple places," said MDH infectious disease expert Kris Ehresmann. 

Two of the five cases are from individuals who live in the same household. 

The new variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is not believed to cause more severe illness, nor is it believed to be immune to vaccines, but experts do think the B117 strain is more contagious than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

"Transmission for this virus appears to be anywhere from 20, maybe 60-70% higher than previous COVID-19 viruses," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, in a Monday interview on WCCO Radio.

"We're going to have more cases, more severe illnesses and more deaths. It will obviously burden our healthcare system in a way that already was a challenge, now it's going to be a real challenge for many locations around the country," Osterholm added. 

Osterholm's concern was echoed by MDH Commissioner Jan Malcom, who said she had already expected cases to be on the rise in Minnesota due to year-end holidays, more time indoors due to cold weather, and more gatherings. 

"And we also flag that if this new variant is circulating or becomes a dominant strain ... that also is likely to put upward pressure on the trajectory of our case growth," said Malcolm. 

Sign up for our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

The B117 variant has been found in Minnesota just as shuttered parts of the economy – bars, restaurants and entertainment businesses – are allowed to reopen indoors at a limited capacity, in addition to school districts around the state preparing to send elementary students back to school for in-person instruction in the coming weeks. 

Health officials do not know at this point if the B117 variant is capable of producing more severe effects on children. COVID-19 can spread rapidly through all age groups, but people over the age of 60 and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to severe disease. 

Next Up

Cane's

Greater Minnesota gets its first Raising Cane's

It's also the only Raising Cane's in the state with a double drive-thru.

mn zoo gladys the owl rectangle crop

Large owl named Gladys escapes from MN Zoo

The owl flew off to a tree during training, and has been on the loose since.

gustavus arboretum

Gustavus removes Swedish botanist's name from campus arboretum

The arboretum's name was a nod to Carl Linnaeus, the 18th-century Swedish botanist.

glow at state fairgrounds

Holiday lights festival returning to State Fairgrounds – but this time you walk

The drive-through display was launched last year as a pandemic-friendly event.

spending, personal finance, money

Money Gal Coaching: How to be smart about spending for personal growth

Kelly Blodgett used her passion behind becoming debt free to launch Money Gal Coaching.

Fleet Farm - Wikimedia Commons

Fleet Farm will move into former Twin Cities Target store

The old Target building has been vacant for years, having closed back in 2018.

rochester-water-tower

Minnesota water towers compete to be named America's 'Tank of the Year'

Two water towers in the state are currently in the top five vote-getters.

brian koland roseville

Roseville Schools elementary principal dies by suicide

The principal's family asked that the district share he took his own life.

unsplash - school girl students

List of St. Paul schools that could close, merge with others under new plan

The district is looking to address coming enrollment and funding issues.

Related

covid, coronavirus

Minnesota health leaders discuss new strain of coronavirus

There are differing viewpoints on how much more transmissible the new strain is.

Sars-Cov-2

Osterholm: B117 COVID strain could become major issue in 6-8 weeks

The B117 variant is believed to be more easily transmitted.

coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2

Minnesota confirms America's 1st case of Brazil P.1 COVID strain

The strain was found in a Twin Cities metro resident who recently traveled to Brazil.

covid

What Dr. Michael Osterholm says about new coronavirus strains

"What we're seeing right now in England I think is going to be a harbinger of things to come," said Osterholm.

covid-19, coronavirus

Washington Post IDs Minnesota as possible emerging COVID hot spot

Minnesota health officials say the uptick in cases is concerning.

vaccine, covid, moderna

MDH: 89 cases of COVID-19 out of 800,000 fully vaccinated so far

Health officials said these cases arguably support the vaccines' effectiveness.

covid, coronavirus

Here is Minnesota's COVID update for January 7

The new variants have not been confirmed in Minnesota, though officials suspect it is already here.

coronavirus, doctor, nurse, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, Feb. 2

The newest information from the state health department.