Illustrated is an image showing the ultrastructural morphology of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness now considered a worldwide pandemic.

A youth wrestling tournament in South Dakota has been linked to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among Minnesota wrestlers — including some from Meeker County — who competed there.

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education have alerted schools around the state to watch for potential cases and to double down on masking, social distancing and other prevention measures. Health officials are also asking anyone who attended the tournament to get tested immediately for COVID-19 and to watch for symptoms.

The Northland Youth Wrestling Association 2021 State Wrestling Tournament was held March 31 through April 3 at the PREMIER Center Complex in Sioux Falls, S.D. The event was for Minnesota youth club wrestling teams and included approximately 2,000 wrestlers in addition to spectators. MDH is now monitoring a growing COVID-19 outbreak among people who attended the tournament. As of Monday morning, MDH has linked 16 confirmed cases to the event.

Due to the close proximity and contact with opponents, wrestling carries a high risk for transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, according to an MDH news release. Given the reported lack of mitigation, such as masking and social distancing, among participants and spectators at the tournament, health officials warn there is an increased risk of COVID-19 from the event.

“We know that Minnesotans desperately want to get back to doing the things we all love,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist and medical director for MDH. “However, COVID-19 is spreading across Minnesota at a high rate. We ask Minnesotans to please be patient and to continue to use prevention measures, and not to gather in large groups of people, particularly indoors, and please continue to wear masks and physically distance. For those who are eligible, we need folks to get vaccinated; vaccination is how we will overcome this pandemic.”

Epidemiologists estimate that 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are now caused by the B.1.1.7 variant, which spreads more easily and may be able to cause more severe illness. The good news is that the tried and true prevention measures work for variants of COVID-19.

Nine counties have confirmed cases associated with the South Dakota tournament: Cass, Le Sueur, Lyon, Morrison, Murray, Rice, Todd, Wright and Yellow Medicine. To date, eight schools have confirmed cases associated with the event, including six public schools and two non-public schools.

Sixty-four teams from at least 52 Minnesota counties participated in the tournament, according to MDH. The counties are Anoka, Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Blue Earth, Brown, Carlton, Carver, Cass, Chippewa, Clay, Cottonwood, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Douglas, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Kandiyohi, Le Sueur, Lyon, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmstead, Pennington, Pipestone, Pope, Ramsey, Redwood, Rice, Rock, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Steele, Swift, Todd, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Watonwan, Wright, and Yellow Medicine.

Given the widespread geographic nature of this outbreak and the number of potential close contacts, MDH and MDE urge all Minnesota schools to take the following steps:

Tournament participants, their families, and other spectators should get tested now.

To find a community testing site visit Getting Tested for COVID-19.

All schools should ensure consistent compliance with prevention measures and be aware of any symptom(s) of illness. This includes:

  • Getting tested after any recent exposure to COVID-19.
  • Strict and active screening for symptoms and getting tested if symptoms present.
  • Staying home when sick.
  • Strict adherence to masking.
  • Strict adherence to social distancing.
  • Delaying non-essential travel and social gatherings.

Avoid unnecessary travel, but if you must travel, after you travel out of state:

  • If not fully immunized (two weeks after completion of vaccine series), stay home and self-quarantine for seven days; test three to five days after return from travel.
  • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full seven days.
  • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Get vaccinated. Anyone 16 or older in Minnesota is now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine. To find out when, where and how to get vaccine, go to the Minnesota Vaccine Connector.

MDH also recommends weekly COVID-19 testing for all athletes and coaches.