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The new coronavirus variant is in Minnesota. Now what?

Here are five steps for protecting yourself and your loved ones from the Brazil P.1 variant of the virus.

As coronavirus deaths and cases per day dropped markedly in the state over the past couple of weeks, a new Brazilian variant has been found in Minnesota.

While this new development can be frustrating and scary, the good news is we have learned a lot about how the coronavirus spreads and we know that public health measures work.

The Brazil P.1 variant identified this week by the Minnesota Department of Health spreads the same way the coronavirus has always spread. You’re most likely to contract the virus if you spend time in an enclosed space breathing the air of an infected person. The same things that have protected you from the original strain should help protect you from the latest variant, although you may need to be more rigorous.

“All of the things we have been doing to control this virus still apply,” said Abe Jacob, chief quality officer for M Health Fairview. “If you have become lax on recommended precautions, now is the time to cut back on potential exposures where you can, and double down on basic precautions for the next few months until you and the people around you get vaccinated.”

Here are five steps to protecting yourself and your loved ones:

1.  Wear a two- or three-layer mask.
  • The best mask has three layers — two cloth layers with a filter sandwiched in between. Masks should be fitted around the bridge of the nose and made of flexible material to reduce gaps.
  • If you don’t want to buy a new mask, a simple solution is to wear an additional mask when you find yourself in closer proximity to strangers.
  • Hard plastic face shields should not be used a substitute for cloth or medical-grade masks, according to the CDC.
2.  Don’t spend time indoors with people not from your household.
  • All in-person gatherings increase your exposure risk. Avoid crowds and keep your distance.
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick, or if you have a close household contact who is ill and their COVID status is unknown. 
3.  Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not readily available
4. Get tested when appropriate.
  • Have symptoms? Does someone in your household have symptoms? M Health Fairview is here to help if you think you or a family member may have COVID-19. Visit OnCare to begin our screening process and get the care you need.
5.  Get vaccinated when you can.
  • M Health Fairview is following the state’s phased plan for vaccinating people. Check here for updates and for answers to frequently asked questions.