There is another COVID-19 variant outbreak in Minnesota, this time up north on the Iron Range. The news comes a day after KARE 11 reported on outbreaks in two other counties.
The Minnesota Department of Health first reported an outbreak that was discovered several weeks ago among youth sports in Carver County. On Thursday, the MDH said there were two more in Scott and Blue Earth Counties.
Friday's confirmation of an outbreak in St. Louis County includes the eastern part of the Iron Range near Aurora.
MDH says the variant from the United Kingdom is a big driver of this spread, despite an uptick in vaccinations.
"We know the vaccines we have are very effective, but they're very effective against the original strain of covid," said MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann. "We don't have good information about the effectiveness with variants."
It's true the most vulnerable population is mostly vaccinated. And Minnesota expects about 151,000 doses next week. But if other people keep driving the spread, Ehresmann says there's a bigger problem.
"The more transmission we have, the more opportunity the virus has to mutate," said Ehresmann.
There are at least 317 cases of the UK variant across the state. MDH said it's now found two strains of the variant from California, plus the variants from South Africa and Brazil. All of those variant cases total 395.
Dr. Tim Schacker, an M Health Fairview infectious disease physician, says the disease could start impacting other groups.
"You will probably see more infections in middle aged folks, many of whom have underlying conditions," said Dr. Schacker.
Early research suggests the disease may not be as severe for young people. Dr. Schacker disagrees and says symptoms can persist even if you're asymptomatic.
"I've seen 20 year-olds who may have permanently lost their smell, I've seen 15 year-olds with the so-called brain fog," said Dr. Schacker who also admits we're in a race against the variants and to come out ahead, more people have to get vaccinated and we have to keep social distancing and wearing masks.
Minnesota is launching a new, temporary testing site in Aurora for people who want to get a free saliva test on the Iron Range. Testing at the East Range event will occur Monday, March 22 through Tuesday, March 23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome and no insurance is required, but appointments are encouraged.