Early Release / February 17, 2021 / 70

Suggested citation for this article: Firestone MJ, Lorentz AJ, Wang X, et al. First Identified Cases of SARS-CoV-2 Variant B.1.1.7 in Minnesota — December 2020–January 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 17

February 2021. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7008e1external icon

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 202012/01, in specimens from five persons; on January 25, MDH announced the identification of this variant in specimens from three additional persons. The B.1.1.7 variant, which is reported to be more transmissible than certain other SARS-CoV-2 lineages*, (1), was first reported in the United Kingdom in December 2020 (1). As of February 14, 2021, a total of 1,173 COVID-19 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant had been identified in 39 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (2). Modeling data suggest that B.1.1.7 could become the predominant variant in the United States in March 2021 (3).

The B.1.1.7 variant has a mutation in the spike protein that causes S-gene target failure (SGTF) in the Thermo Fisher Scientific TaqPath COVID-19 reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay. The overall RT-PCR result is positive but is negative for the S-gene target and positive for the other two assay targets; SGTF has served as a proxy for identifying the B.1.1.7 variant (1). The MDH Public Health Laboratory (MDH-PHL) requested SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR–positive specimens with SGTFs collected during November 1, 2020–January 12, 2021, from clinical laboratories that used the TaqPath assay, and 30 specimens were received. An additional specimen that had been collected from a household contact of a person with an SGTF specimen was requested and obtained from a clinical laboratory using another COVID-19 assay that does not detect SGTFs. MDH-PHL conducted whole genome sequencing to analyze the 31 specimens.?

... Persons identified with the 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.