After President Biden announced new steps to respond to the rising omicron variant, Governor Tim Walz today reminded Minnesotans about the important, effective steps they can take to celebrate safely this holiday season.
“This week, Minnesotans across the state will gather with loved ones for the holidays, and we all want to celebrate safely. COVID-19 is circulating in Minnesota and the omicron variant is here, but we have many tools at our disposal to make holiday gatherings safer,” said Governor Walz.
“I took advantage of Minnesota’s testing network and learned that I was positive for COVID-19 even though I was asymptomatic. I’m grateful I took that test before gathering with family this year. Take it from me, get tested before you go, get a booster if you haven’t yet, mask when you’re in public, and let’s make sure all Minnesotans can have a safer holiday season.”
The state is encouraging Minnesotans to take the following steps:
- Get Vaccinated. Minnesotans age 5 and up can be vaccinated. Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones this holiday season—especially those who can’t be vaccinated and children under 5. Find vaccines for the whole family at mn.gov/vaccine.
- Get Boosted. All Minnesotans 16 and older should get a booster when they are due (6 months after receiving Pfizer and Moderna, and 2 months after receiving Johnson & Johnson). Researchers believe the omicron variant is more transmissible than previous variants, but getting fully vaccinated and boosted significantly increases protection against severe illness or death from infection.
- Get Tested. Even if you’re not experiencing any symptoms, test before holiday gatherings to make sure you’re not spreading the virus to loved ones unknowingly. Take advantage of one of the many free testing options the state has to offer, or head to your local clinic or pharmacy. If you are using an over the counter at-home rapid test, use it as close to your gathering as possible. Testing options are available at mn.gov/covid19.
- Stay Safe. Wear your mask while traveling and in indoor public settings like a grocery store, a shopping mall, or a school. Wash your hands and do your best to avoid crowded indoor spaces before getting together with family and friends—especially high-risk loved ones and children under 5 who can’t be vaccinated. Know the vaccination status of those with whom you are gathering to make sure the whole family is safer when together.
President Biden today announced several steps to respond to the omicron variant, including expanding testing accessibility and distributing 500 million free rapid tests to Americans; surging vaccinator capacity to states; and deploying emergency federal medical teams to hospitals around the country.
“President Biden’s announcement today is welcome news for Minnesotans,” said Governor Walz. “Affordable and accessible testing; widely available free and safe vaccines; and emergency assistance for our hospitals are key goals of our COVID-19 response. I urge the Biden administration to move quickly to get these new resources out the door so they can benefit as many Minnesotans as possible, as soon as possible.”
President Biden’s actions complement the Walz-Flanagan Administration’s efforts to expand testing and vaccination options and provide relief to the state’s overwhelmed health care providers:
Minnesotans have many testing options available to them:
- The Walz-Flanagan Administration has secured and provided approximately 1.1 million free rapid tests to Minnesotans through our schools, child care providers, and state-run Community Testing sites, 13 of which are now providing rapid testing.
- In addition to rapid testing, PCR saliva testing is available for free at the state’s 21 Community Testing sites.
- Minnesotans can order free, at-home PCR test kits shipped directly to them through the state’s At-Home Testing Program.
- There are over 480 testing sites around the state, meaning Minnesotans can find a convenient testing location near them.
Find a map of these sites and learn more about the at-home testing option, at mn.gov/covid19.
- Minnesota has an extensive network of providers— health care systems, pharmacies, state community sites and clinics, local public health agencies, and tribal health agencies — to ensure the vaccine is accessible to all Minnesotans. A map of providers can found at mn.gov/vaccine.
- To meet the needs of families ahead of the holidays, the state’s Mall of America (MOA) community vaccination site has increased vaccination capacity to 2,300 shots a day. Governor Walz has also secured federal support in the form of 15 FEMA vaccinators to help administer shots at MOA. The MOA site is offering vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds, primary series doses to ages 12 and up, and boosters to Minnesotans age 16 and up. Walk-ins are welcome and appointments can be made here.
Support for Hospitals
Governor Walz is enacting a multi-faceted campaign to support Minnesota hospitals and long-term care facilities facing high caseloads and worker shortages, including:
- Deploying National Guard skilled-nursing response teams to provide staffing support at long-term care facilities;
- Standing up four alternative care sites to treat non-critical patients who no longer need to be hospitalized;
- Launching an initiative to recruit, train, and deploy 1,000 new certified nursing assistants to Minnesota long-term care facilities;
- Securing federal emergency staffing teams to relieve staff at two Minnesota hospitals;
- Making $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding available for immediate emergency grants to long-term care facilities to hire and retain employees;
- Expanding the Emergency Staffing Pool so that short-term emergency temporary staff could be used to open additional long-term care beds for patients ready to be discharged from a hospital; and
- Directing the Department of Human Services to free up capacity at state-operated long-term care facilities.
“Minnesota has a robust testing and vaccination infrastructure and we’re doing all we can to continue to expand access to all Minnesotans. And we’re fully committed to supporting our healthcare heroes who are stretched thin, but still working so hard to treat sick Minnesotans every single day,” said Governor Walz. “We need the federal government to flood the market with resources to make sure we have the emergency support we need to manage the omicron variant.”
Information provided by the office of Gov. Tim Walz.