MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota reported 2,489 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and 43 more deaths, bringing the statewide death toll from the virus to 5,663 since the pandemic began.
The state has reported more than 434,000 positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
The Minnesota Department of Health announced Saturday that the new variant strain of coronavirus, first detected in the United Kingdom, has been identified in five metro residents. Two of the five cases reported international travel.
“It’s important to note that this variant strain of the virus has been found in other states in the U.S., so we were expecting to find the virus in Minnesota. Knowing that it is now here does not change our current public health recommendations,” said State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield.
“The fact that the variant strain is thought to be more contagious, but not more virulent, than the viral strains currently in wide circulation in Minnesota reinforces the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing outside your home and quarantining if you’ve been exposed to a positive case,” said MDH Director of Infectious Disease Kris Ehresmann.
Ehresmann says that preliminary studies have indicated that the COVID-19 vaccines currently in use are effective against the variant strain.
State health officials have been watching for a possible increase in cases following holiday travel, but they have said it’s too early to draw conclusions.
Meanwhile, a group advocating for young athletes to get back to playing sports has sued Gov. Tim Walz in an effort to repeal a mandate that requires high school and youth athletes to wear masks during practices and games.