Health officials express concern for spread of COVID-19 variant in Carver County

Carver County is currently a hotspot for the COVID-19 variant seen in both England and South Africa known as B117.

Some doctors are concerned with these cases because the variant is spreading faster, and there’s some evidence that it could be dangerous.  

"It’s for sure more transmissible, and it looks like it causes more severe hospitalization rates," said Dr. Frank Rhame, who specializes in infectious disease at Allina Health.

Dr. Rhame adds while there’s still a lot to learn about the B117 variant of COVID-19, taking a look across the pond in England is evident just how contagious this variant can be.  

"Almost all the COVID-19 cases in England is now due to this strain," said Dr. Rhame. "So, that makes you understand that it is more infectious. It doesn’t take over that fast if it doesn’t have some advantage over the other strands."

Minnesota Department of Health said staff has observed a concerning increase in the rate of growth of cases in Carver County over the past month. 

"A 62 percent increase between the week of January 27 and the week of Feb. 24," said Kris Ehresmann, director for MDH Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division.

State health leaders said the majority of the B117 cases are linked to youth sports, and the residents in their 20s are contracting the variant more. That worries Dr. Rhame.

"[Younger people] usually don’t get that sick, but it doesn’t stay in that stratum. Two weeks later, it’s people in their 40s. Then, later, the people who are elderly. And then two weeks after that people are dying," said Rhame.

But there is some optimism as many seniors are currently vaccinated. 

"It might be that last little step doesn’t occur because they’re all vaccinated now," said Dr. Rhame. "If they get some illness, maybe it's not as much and they won’t die as much."

Carver County health officials told FOX 9 in a statement that they’re working with the state to add pop-up testing sites this weekend to help stop the spread of this variant.