On January 9, 2021, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced the identification of the SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern (VOC) B.1.1.7, also referred to as 20I/501Y.V1 and VOC 2020/01, in specimens from five persons; on January 25, MDH announced the identification of this variant in specimens from three additional persons.
The people identified with variant B.1.1.7 in Minnesota had exposure histories related to travel (six), the household (one), and others in the community (one). None had a history of travel to the United Kingdom, although three persons traveled internationally and three persons traveled domestically in the 14 days before illness onset or specimen collection, including one who received a positive test result before returning to Minnesota.
Identification of this variant in Minnesota, a variant that epidemiologic and genomic evidence suggests has increased transmissibility, highlights the importance of mitigation measures such as mask use, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, isolation of persons with diagnosed COVID-19, quarantine of close contacts of persons with COVID-19, and adherence to CDC travel guidance to slow transmission. As SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, timely genomic surveillance and disease mitigation strategies will be critical for monitoring variant emergence and protecting public health. Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!