St. Luke's is further restricting visitors due to the presence of a highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Over the weekend, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that the new variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, was identified in five Minnesotans. Those five people are from four different counties in the metro area.

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As of Wednesday, Minnesota had not identified the new strain in any more people, wrote a spokesperson with the state health department in an email to the News Tribune.

The COVID-19 vaccine is proving to be highly effective against the new variant, according to a news release from St. Luke's.

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"However, having an even more contagious version of COVID-19 has led St. Luke’s to take action," the release said.

The Duluth-based health care system's new visitor policy will only allow visitors in a handful of situations. Under the inpatient policy, pediatric patients can have one parent or guardian visitor and labor patients can have one adult visitor as well as a doula if they have one. Rare exceptions will also be made for other patients on an "invitation-only basis." Examples include patients at the end of life as well as vulnerable adults who need help communicating or making decisions.

The updated outpatient visitor policy allows adult patients to have one visitor per appointment, while pediatric patients can have up to two parents or guardians present per appointment.

Prior to Wednesday, the last time St. Luke's had updated its policy to restrict visitors was in early December.