Three variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been found in the five-county area served by Horizon Public Health.
Horizon Public Health has been notified by the Minnesota Department of Health that the variants – B.1.1.7., B.1.427 and B.1.429 – have been identified in its service area that includes Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse counties.
Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time, according to Horizon Public Health.
The B.1.1.7. variant was first identified in the United Kingdom in December 2020 and is now the most common version of the virus spread in the United States. The B1.427 and B.1.429 are two additional variants which were first identified in California in February 2021. The Minnesota Department of Health reported the state's first variant on March 11.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, these variants seem to spread more easily than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.
This means, according to Horizon Public Health, that if someone is spreading the virus, it has the potential to impact more people who have had contact with the person. This can lead to a more rapid increase in cases, which can impact hospitalizations and could result in additional poor outcomes.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Public health leaders urge people to not let their guard done and still practice public health preventative measures that include:
Choose to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends all those over the age of 16 get vaccinated. Data suggests that the COVID-19 vaccines should work against these variants.
Wear a mask in public settings, events and gatherings.
Maintain distancing from those who don’t live with you and avoid crowds.
Wash your hands often.
Get tested. It is critically important to get tested and stay home when you are sick.
All Minnesotans 16 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. According to recent data, 50% of those 16 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the counties of Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse.
Horizon Public Health, together with local healthcare providers and pharmacies have been working to encourage vaccinations and are continuing to hold ongoing COVID-19 vaccine clinics.
To find a clinic near you, visit www.horizonpublichealth.org.
Those with additional questions or who need assistance, may call the Horizon Public Health COVID-19 helpline at 1-800-450-4177, option 3, or visit www.horizonpublichealth.org.