Despite warning from state, 2 Carver County districts will allow varsity sports to continue

At least two of four school districts in Carver County are planning to continue on with its varsity sports programs, despite a recommendation from the state on Friday for a two-week pause for athletes due to rising cases of a COVID-19 variant.

Friday night, the Minnesota Department of Health issued a warning about rising cases of the B117 variant of COVID-19, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. According to the state, they've confirmed 24 variant cases linked to school-sponsored and club sports activities with another 44 cases that are linked to the variant. However, the state did not identify which schools or districts had been impacted by the rise in variant cases.

"What’s concerning about this cluster in Carver County - of these 68 folks that are associated mostly kids, associated with this cluster - every sample that we have done whole genome sequencing on has come up to be that B117 variant," said Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff.

While MDH says the variant doesn't necessarily make anyone sicker, it spreads a lot easier and it's moving quickly through young athletes in Carver County.

"We are concerned because this variant has the possibility of reversing all the good news we’ve been seeing the last month or two on cases declining," added Huff.

State health officials are recommending a two-week pause on club and school sports and a hybrid learning model for the older learners in Carver County. But in at least two of the four public school districts in the county we reached out to, they’re putting a pause on all sports except varsity.

In an update to parents, Eastern Carver County Schools said all non-varsity winter sports will pause practices and games, but varsity teams will continue.

In a statement, school leaders told FOX 9: "We are very close to the end of the winter sports season and wanted to give our varsity players the opportunity to finish out the regular season and look toward the playoffs while doing everything we can to minimize their risk of exposure."

Waconia Public Schools are in spring break next week, but updated parents on Saturday, saying they’re pausing youth sports one week at a time but will allow varsity sports to continue as long as players and coaches are cleared of COVID-19. Fans will not be allowed in to watch.

In both districts, no decisions have been made yet about changing any of the current learning models.

And while some of these Carver County districts are keeping varsity sports in play, we’re learning that schools outside the county have pulled out of games this weekend, opting not to play the Carver County teams at this time.