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With the omicron variant of COVID-19 now running rampant, Allina Health is implementing a new visitor policy at its hospitals and clinics: No visitors except in specific, limited circumstances.

The health care system's new visitors guidelines went into effect Tuesday. Visitors will not be allowed unless that person falls into one of a few select categories (which you can see here), 

The reason for the shift to "Red" visitor guidelines is COVID. 

Related: MN hospitals issue plea: Don't go to the emergency room for a COVID test

"Allina Health has never seen a community illness impact patients and staff to the levels COVID-19 is currently," the organization said Monday. The current wave, fueled by the omicron variant, is putting more pressure "on an already strained system dealing with staffing shortages," the statement continued.

Through the first five days of 2022, an average of more than 100 Allina Health staff members had to be removed from work daily because they either tested positive for COVID or were awaiting COVID test results.

“The weariness among healthcare workers and the general public is profound," said Hsieng Su, MD, Allina Health senior vice president and chief medical executive., in the announcement. "We empathize and are hopeful 2022 will bring a turning point in this pandemic; however, we need the public to help those who care for us."

Related: WI hospital system reports record number of COVID patients amid surge 

Su, citing previous spikes and declines elsewhere, said models suggest "things will likely get worse later in January before we see them get better." 

"We need everyone working together to get through this peak," Su concluded.

The omicron variant, which is the most contagious variant of COVID-19 seen yet, has taken hold particularly in the more densely populated Twin Cities metro, though is likely to spread across the rest of Minnesota in the coming weeks.

While it can evade vaccines better than previous variants, leading to more breakthrough cases, vaccines and boosters are still highly effective at preventing serious or fatal illness.

Despite the highly-vaccinated Twin Cities seeing a surge in cases in recent weeks, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 haven't risen at the same rate.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told MPR News he expects the variant to burn through Minnesota over the next 3-4 weeks, after which cases should subside.

He has expressed concern for unvaccinated residents, including children under the age of five who are not eligible for the shots.

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