By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota’s staring down another surge of COVID-19 that health officials say is different from previous ones during the pandemic.

Minnesota has the fourth-most new cases per capita in the country over the last seven days.

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Doug Schultz is a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Health.

“It’s likely due to a constellation of different factors,” said Schultz.

Schultz says more than half of Minnesota’s positive cases are the B117 variant strain first identified in the UK. The variant is more difficult to contain.

“We’re seeing attack rates where everybody in the household becomes infected…so it’s much more transmissible,” Schultz said.

He says other reasons for the surge are likely spring breakers and snowbirds returning home, as well as people getting a little lax with the proven safety measures because of a general feeling of being near the end of the pandemic.

In comparison, Texas presents an interesting case study.

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The state lifted its mask mandate and fully reopened last month, and cases there have declined.

“It’s very tough to compare states,” Schultz said. “First of all, I would ask how long has Texas’s climate allowed for people to gather outdoors?”

Schultz says it’s possible the warmer weather itself may slow down spread too.

In Minnesota, MDH is focused on promoting what works – masks and distancing – while Governor Tim Walz is focused on vaccinations.

Earlier this week, Walz said he’s not considering tightening up restrictions again.

“The good news is we’re moving back toward that place where those meals and those gatherings can happen again,” said Walz.

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Minnesota’s seeing more new cases per capita than any of its neighboring states: Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Perhaps counterintuitively, Minnesota is the only one of those to have a statewide mask mandate.

David Schuman