COVID-19 variant outbreaks in Minnesota lead to call for more testing in youth sports
Minnesota health officials recommend weekly COVID-19 tests for all youth involved in sports or activities that make it tough to social distance, along with tests three days before games or matches.
"As the numbers continue to improve statewide, we are seeing the lifting of more restrictions," said Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff on a Monday call with reporters.
"To protect this success we need to remain vigilant," Huff said. "One of the most important ways we do that is through regular testing."
The state has also recommended a two-week pause on youth sports in Carver County ending March 21, due to a COVID-19 outbreak of the B.1.1.7 variant linked to youth sports.
The state has identified more than 250 cases of that variant in more than 24 Minnesota counties, Huff said. "Early data suggests that the B.1.1.7 variant is up to 50% more contagious than the original virus. … There is also concern that this variant may be associated with more severe disease."
Gov. Tim Walz eased restrictions on businesses and social gatherings in an order last week that took effect Monday.
The pace of vaccinations is up. And the seven-day average testing positivity rate is below the caution marker at 3.6%, said Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on the Monday call.
"We're all pleased to see things moving in the right direction," Malcolm said. "We need to keep our eye on the fact that there's still a lot of viral activity around our state. Our cases, on a population basis, are high and ticking back up a bit."
Minnesota added one new COVID-19 death to the total death count on Monday — a Ramsey County resident in their late 70s.
The state added 829 new cases of COVID-19, including 63 in the St. Cloud tri-county area, according to Monday's report from the Minnesota Department of Health.
Stearns County gained 26 cases, Benton gained nine and Sherburne 28. Sherburne County lags behind other counties with its vaccination rate at 14% of the population.
Here are the latest totals in the tri-county area:
- Stearns County: 19,094 cases, 209 deaths and 34,392 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
- Benton County: 4,668 cases, 94 deaths and 5,977 have received one vaccine dose.
- Sherburne County: 9,013 cases, 77 deaths and 13,224 have received one vaccine dose.
The number of people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus reached 498,218 cases on Monday and 6,747 people have died, according to MDH.
Since the start of the pandemic, 26,295 people have required hospitalization in the state, including 5,427 in intensive care.
According to MDH, 482,984 coronavirus patients no longer need isolation.
Globally, there are nearly 120 million cases of COVID-19, including more than 29.4 million in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. Nearly 2.7 million people have died of the infection worldwide, including nearly 535,000 people in the U.S.