Top state health officials are urging Minnesotans to mask up and get a vaccine or booster if they haven't yet amid growing concerns about the Omicron variant.
State of play: While the new variant hasn't been detected here yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Wednesday the first known U.S. case was identified in a San Francisco resident who tested positive on Nov. 28.
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What they're saying: "The history of COVID-19 and the Delta variant in particular shows us that very transmissible viruses can move very quickly around the globe. And we should be prepared for Omicron to show up in Minnesota at some point," Health commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters.
Between the lines: Malcom said that the state has strong surveillance and genomic testing systems, so it's likely officials "will find it and find it quickly" if and when the variant does show up in the state.
What you can do: In addition to getting a shot and wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and crowded outdoor settings, Malcolm recommends that Minnesotans seek testing if they are experiencing systems, stay home if sick and take steps to improve indoor ventilation where possible.
The bottom line: The fall surge in cases and hospitalizations is already stressing the state's health systems — just 1% of ICU beds in the metro are available right now.
That backdrop, combined with Minnesotans getting "a little bit lax on" mask-wearing and other mitigation efforts, could create an even worse scenario if Omicron does turn out to be more transmissible, as scientists fear.
Go deeper: Omicron dashboard
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