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Minnesota health officials discourage Super Bowl parties

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesotans thinking about holding Super Bowl parties should think again — even through the state’s coronavirus numbers are improving, state health officials advised Thursday.

“This is probably not the year to have a Super Bowl party,” said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. “And fortunately we don’t have to feel bad because the Vikings aren’t in the Super Bowl, so it takes some of the pressure off.”

But fans who ignore that advice and gather anyway for the matchup between Kansas City and Tampa Bay on Sunday should at least wear masks and practice social distancing, Ehresmann said at briefing for reporters. She also discouraged people from sharing chips, chicken wings and other traditional gameday food, suggesting that they bring their own snacks instead.

State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said at the same briefing that Minnesota has now recorded its second case of the Brazilian variant of the coronavirus. The patient was from the same household as the first, a person from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area whose case was reported Jan. 25, and both of them had traveled to Brazil. They remain the only known U.S. cases of the Brazilian variant, she said.

“It is not a surprise that we detected another case, but it underscores the need for continued vigilance,” Lynfield said.

Officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say variants have not driven recent surges in overall U.S. cases so far. But experts worry that the impact from variants is not clear and say the country should have been more aggressive about sequencing viruses earlier in the pandemic. Viruses mutate constantly. The British variant is more contagious and is believed to deadlier than the original, while experts say the Brazilian variant also may be more contagious.

Lynfield said known cases of the British variant in Minnesota have grown to 16. While 12 of those cases were associated with international or domestic travel, she said, the four others were due to community spread.

Four of the 16 cases were international travelers, she said. Three had been to West Africa; one to the Dominican Republic. A fifth lived with one of those travelers. Seven other cases were linked with domestic travel, she said. Three had been to California; one to some other U.S. destination. Three of their household members also became infected.

The department said 475,200 Minnesotans had received at least their first vaccine dose as of Tuesday, including 128,694 who had also had their second shot. Ehresmann said the state expects to receive another 83,825 doses next week.

That’s down from about 98,000 this week, which Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm pointed out included extra doses from a one-time availability.

Minnesota reported 1,410 new cases Thursday for a total of 465,176, with 17 new deaths for a cumulative toll of 6,251.