(FOX 9) - The Minnesota Department of Health has put out a warning Friday night as they say they are seeing clusters of cases of a COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, particularly among young athletes in Carver County.
Since late January, the health department says they've identified at least 68 COVID-19 cases linked to school-sponsored and club sports activities. Of those 68, 24 have been confirmed as the B117 variant while 18 are pending results and 26 others have links to variant cases.
At the same time, the health department says they've seen an increase in cases linked to Carver County gyms and fitness centers. Between February 24 and March 4, officials say there has been a 62 percent increase in cases in Carver County.
The spike in cases has health leaders urging schools, gyms, parents, and athletes alike to continue with mitigation efforts. Health officials are recommending a two-week pause for youth sports in Carver County for two weeks, starting Monday. At the same time, the state is urging other counties to commit to "active screening" and weekly tests of athletes and coaches along with avoiding gatherings before games and enforcing mask policies.
Statewide, there have been 165 identified B117 variant cases, but officials say there are likely many more cases that haven't been confirmed. Of the 165 confirmed cases, eight have resulted in hospitalizations and one death.
MDH also issued the following list of recommendations for Carver County:
- Maintain hybrid learning model with full physical distancing for secondary students.
- Consider pause on extracurricular activities where full distancing cannot be maintained.
- Reinforcement of mitigation strategies among school communities.
- Review of COVID-19 preparedness plan and compliance for school setting, associated activities.
- Limit gatherings outside of household.
For gyms, fitness centers, pools
- Strict active screening for symptoms or recent exposure to COVID-19 for employees or other staff.
- Strict adherence to masking.
- Pause group classes.
- Review of COVID-19 preparedness plan and compliance.
- Consider not attending if at high risk for severe disease.