State health officials warn UK virus variant now considered to be widespread in Minnesota

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Health officials are now warning some more contagious variants of COVID-19 are spreading in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says the U.K. variant that’s known to be more transmissible is now considered to be widespread in Minnesota.

Health officials are tracking these different variants closely through genome sequencing.

"We estimate that 50%-65% of COVID-positive specimens tested March 16 to March 20 were B117," Minnesota State Epidemiologist and MDH Medical Director Dr. Ruth Lynfield said about the variant. "This is an increase compared with specimens tested March 10 through the 15th in which 38%-44% were estimated to be B117."

Of those positive cases that were tested for the variant, only 15% of those people reported having traveled.

Health officials say that tells them the variant is becoming the dominant strain in Minnesota. They said they’re also concerned about two other variants coming from California.

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They say all of these variants are showing to be more contagious and that’s why they’re concerned about another possible spike.

"With these variants circulating, and with it being easier than ever for one infected person to pass COVID-19 to another susceptible person, now is the time to buckle down and finish the job we all started," Dr. Lynfield said.

Health officials say they know people are tired and ready be done with this virus.

"COVID-fatigue" as they’re calling it is real and it’s out there, they said, but added now is the time to keeping pushing through.

They’re urging Minnesotans to keep wearing masks and social distancing until more people are vaccinated.

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Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, the U.K., which has spent much of the past year in lockdown, has registered more than 126,000 virus-related deaths, the highest pandemic death toll in Europe and one of the highest in the world.