The new Omicron variant has landed in Minnesota and continues to spread across the globe. Health officials urge patience and caution as we learn more about this variant, while underscoring the importance of all Minnesotans to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to strain our communities and health systems. Hospital bed capacity continues to shrink, and ICU usage is at record levels with 98% of beds occupied. The majority of Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated Minnesotans, but waning immunity in earliest vaccine recipients continue to fuel this prolonged surge. Minnesotans are highly encouraged to get their vaccine or get a booster if eligible to protect themselves and those around them from severe illness.
- Severity of disease: While highly infectious, reports suggest the Omicron may cause less severe illness than other forms of the virus in persons immunized by vaccination or prior infection. Researchers assert that current vaccines remain effective against hospitalization and death.
- Treatments: Researchers continue to see how existing treatments and therapies work with the new variant. There is only one approved monoclonal antibody treatment is effective against Omicron: Sotrovimab. Due to high demand and nationwide supply shortages, the Department of Health (MDH) and providers are prioritizing these treatments based on clinical need.
- Tests: PCR and rapid antigen tests continue to detect infection, including people infected with Omicron.
- MDH Recommendations: The most effective steps to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and any variants are to:
- Get vaccinated and, if eligible, get a booster;
- Wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor settings;
- Get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed to Covid-19;
- Stay home if you are sick;
- Wash hands frequently;
- Improve ventilation in your home and workplace; and
- Use extra caution if you have or are in close contact with someone who has underlying health conditions.
Vaccines (including booster shots)
Kids age 5-11: A Pfizer two-dose vaccine series is approved for 5-11-year-olds. Parental consent is required for childhood vaccination.
- Visit mn.gov/vaxforkids to find clinic locations, vaccine information, and more resources.
- Check with their pediatrician, family medicine clinic, or local pharmacy about appointments.
- Watch for vaccination clinics being offered at schools or other community locations around Minnesota.
Other vaccine locations:
- Use the state’s Vaccine Locator Map to find a vaccine provider near you.
- Check for vaccine appointments at Vaccines.gov, where you can search for appointments by vaccine type (e.g., Pfizer).
- Contact your primary health care provider or a local pharmacy.
- Walk in to or make an appointment at one of Minnesota’s COVID-19 Community Vaccination sites.
- Contact the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Public Hotline: 1-833-431-2053 (Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. & Sat., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.)
- Flu vaccines: Visit the Flu Vaccine Finder to search by zip code for a vaccinator near you. Flu vaccines are available through health care providers, retail locations, pharmacies and more.
Booster shots: Providers can now offer booster shots to Minnesotans 12 and older who previously received any of the authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson).
- If you got Johnson & Johnson vaccine: All Minnesotans age 18 and older who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster shot at least 2 months after their first dose.
- If you got Pfizer vaccine: Health officials recommend you should get a booster shot 5 months after the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
- If you got the Moderna vaccine: Health officials recommend you should get a booster shot 6 months after the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
- COVID-19 booster doses will be administered anywhere the COVID-19 vaccine is available, including at some school vaccination clinics.
- $200 Visa Gift Cards: Minnesota families who get their kids 5-11 years old fully vaccinated in January and February can get a $200 Visa gift card.
- $100,000 Minnesota College Scholarship Drawings: Coming Spring 2022. Drawings for five $100,000 Minnesota college scholarships for all Minnesotans 5-11 years old who are fully vaccinated.
- Find more information on these rewards on theKids Deserve a Shot website.
The rising case counts are increasing demand at the state’s Covid-19 testing sites and impacting national supply chains, leaving many people frustrated with longer lines and wait times. State and federal officials are working hard to increase the availability of community and at-home testing options for Minnesotans; most recently Governor Walz announced his intention to spend $40 million to purchase additional rapid tests.
The Minnesota Department of Health maintains a comprehensive website with links to testing options. State-sponsored testing sites are free; for other testing sites, contact the site and your health insurance company ahead of your visit to make sure you won’t be charged.
- NOTE: Hospitals are urging Minnesotans not to go to emergency rooms or urgent care solely for a Covid-19 test. Instead, find testing options at one of the many state testing sites or use a home test kit. This will help keep emergency department capacity and staff available for medical emergencies.
- At-home tests: Get free, at-home COVID-19 tests delivered straight to your door. Available to anyone living in MN with or without symptoms. These saliva tests can be completed at home and mailed back for analysis.
- COVID-19 Community Testing Sites: Walk-in or schedule an appointment for a test at one of the state’s free community testing sites across. Find other testing options near you through the state’s map: Find Testing Locations.
- Tests from school: Governor Walz used a portion of the state’s federal funding to establish a testing program in Minnesota schools and child care centers. There are six tests, including two rapid tests, available for kids, families, and staff.
- Ask your district or school administrators if they have received a testing grant or test options for students and families.
- Child care providers are encouraged to communicate with families about available testing options. For more information, ask your child care provider if they’ve ordered at-home rapid tests for children, families, and staff.
When to stay home
The Minnesota Department of Health’s website has general guidelines to help Minnesotans decide when to stay home and when to get tested. You can also refer to the CDC’s quarantine and isolation guidance. This is not universal guidance, however. Some settings, such as health care and schools, may have different rules about quarantine. In general:
- If you are not fully vaccinated and have close contact with someone with COVID-19: Stay home for at least five full days and get tested at least 5 days after exposure. Watch for symptoms and wear a mask around others for 10 full days after exposure.
- If you are fully vaccinated OR have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past three months and have close contact: If you have no symptoms, you do not need to quarantine but should get tested five days after exposure. Wear a mask around others and watch for symptoms for 10 days following exposure.
- If you display signs of illness, vaccinated or not: Stay home for at least five days, wearing a well-fitted mask around others. Isolation can end after 5 full days if you are fever free for 24 hours and symptoms are improving, or at least 5 full days after a positive test. If you are severely ill with Covid-19, isolate for at least 10 days and contact your doctor before ending isolation.
- Follow at-home care tips from the CDC or Mayo Clinic when managing symptoms. Reach out to your doctor if you are at high risk for severe illness and want to know more about authorized treatments.
Health care capacity
Governor Walz continues to provide staffing and support for hospitals and nursing homes across the state as they struggle with workforce shortages.
- $40 million to cover costs for up to 350 healthcare workers to provide care to patients at certain Minnesota hospitals dealing with staffing shortages due to COVID-19.
- Ongoing initiative to recruit, train, and deploy 1,000 new certified nursing assistants to Minnesota long-term care facilities by January 31st. Sign up here for more information.
- $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding is available for immediate emergency grants to nursing home facilities to hire and retain employees;
- Minnesota National Guard members are being deployed to serve as “response teams” that will support nursing facilities experiencing severe staffing shortages.