Variants a concern as Minnesota plans rollback of COVID-19 restrictions, mask mandate
May 6, 2021
Minnesota has stepped up its genomic sequencing of COVID-19 patient samples to more quickly identify emerging viral variants amid the state's plans to phase out its pandemic restrictions, including the indoor mask mandate.
While Gov. Tim Walz is scheduled Thursday to announce a three-phase plan to eliminate business and social restrictions because of improving case numbers, state health officials said close monitoring of more infectious variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 is needed to prevent any resurgence in pandemic activity. The B.1.1.7 variant found in England largely caused Minnesota's latest wave of infections.
B.1.1.7 got a head start when it surfaced in Minnesota in January, because sequencing activities to identify it were limited and the state's COVID-19 vaccination campaign was just starting, said Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director. The more infectious variant first spread in smaller groups, including in youth sports activities centered in suburban Carver County, but now makes up 68% of all new infections in Minnesota.