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The State of Minnesota is encouraging people to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 this holiday season. 

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday launched the "Celebrate Safely, Minnesota" campaign — a "coordinated, statewide push" to help Minnesotans access COVID testing, vaccines and boosters so they can gather safely. 

“This virus creates a lot of unknowns, but what we do know is that testing and getting your vaccine and booster are the best ways to protect yourself and those around you,” Walz said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to holiday celebrations just like a lot of Minnesotans, but I know I have a personal responsibility to do my part to keep those around me safe — I encourage all Minnesotans to do the same.”

State and local health officials are encouraging people ages 5 and older to get vaccinated and, if eligible, get their booster dose as soon as possible. 

It's the best thing a person can do to protect themselves from getting seriously ill or dying from the virus. Minnesota Department of Health data show the majority of COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Minnesota continue to be among those who aren't vaccinated

Getting vaccinated — and boosted — also helps protect those who can't be vaccinated and children under 5 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Related [Dec. 8]: COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Minnesota dominated by unvaccinated

Related [Dec. 7]: 4th teen COVID-19 death reported in Minnesota is the 2nd in as many weeks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 18 and older get a booster shot if they received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two or more months ago or if they received the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines six or more months ago. This is because there's evidence boosters can extend the protection the vaccines provide. 

In addition to getting vaccinated, it's recommended people get tested for COVID before holiday gatherings — even if they aren't experiencing any symptoms — to make sure they don't unknowingly spread COVID to family and friends. 

Local, state and federal public health officials continue to urge people to use a layered approach to stay safe, even for those who are fully vaccinated. That includes:

  • Wearing a well-fitting mask when inside public places and in crowded outdoor settings.
  • Getting tested if you have COVID symptoms or have been exposed to COVID.
  • Staying home if you're sick with COVID or anything else.
  • Frequently washing your hands.
  • Staying away from crowds, especially before getting together with family and friends. 
  • Improving ventilation in your home and workplace.
  • And taking care to avoid being exposed to COVID if you have medical conditions or live with someone who does that could put you at greater risk of getting sick or dying from the virus. 

“Minnesotans know what to do to protect themselves and their loved ones this holiday season — now we just need them to take action,” said Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “The state is doing everything we can to give Minnesotans access to tests, vaccines and booster shots, I encourage everyone to take these steps as well as additional precautions, like masking and hand washing, so we can all celebrate safely this holiday season.”

Where to get the jab

The state, through this holiday campaign, is also working to make it easier for Minnesotans to get vaccinated and boosted. 

It is hosting 63 vaccination events for families in December, including 39 school events, 18 community vaccination events, and three mobile vaccine events.

The state is also working with COVID-19 Community Coordinators to host 49 vaccination events across the state this month, with a focus on getting communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 vaccinated. 

And local public health departments have planned 163 vaccination events in the month of December. 

That's in addition to the three semi-permanent community vaccination site locations in Minnesota. And all the providers and pharmacies across the state offering the vaccine for free (find a place near you to get the jab via the state's vaccine connector website).

There is also increased capacity at the Mall of America community vaccination site, which can give up to 2,000 shots a day. The site is offering vaccines to people aged 5 and older, as well as booster doses for those 18 and older. 

Walk-ins are welcome or you can make an appointment at the Mall of America site here

Plus, there are perks for those who get vaccinated. Among them: 

— People 18 and older who get vaccinated at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's Terminal 2 vaccination site by Dec. 29 will be entered to win a $200 Sun Country Airlines travel voucher. The site is offering the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

— Hennepin County is offering the Pfizer vaccine and Pfizer booster doses at events and clinics, and those who get a dose or the booster at one of the county's events can be eligible for a $50 Visa gift card, a news release said. To register to get the vaccine at a Hennepin County vaccination clinic, click here or call 612-348-8900.

The county says mixing and matching for the COVID booster is authorized, so Minnesotans can get a booster dose of any of the vaccines regardless of the brand they received for their initial vaccination series.

Where to get tested

There are many options for people to get tested for COVID-19 for free. Among them: 

— The state has 21 state-run testing sites up and running. The sites allow walk-ins but people are encouraged to make an appointment because testing sites get busy this time of year. You can make an appointment here

— Order an at-home test now (you can do that here) and then you'll have it on-hand to take ahead of a holiday gathering. 

— Pharmacies, clinics, and other providers are also offering COVID-19 testing. Use this map to find a test near you. 

The state says 16 local public health agencies plan to provide testing this month, and the Minnesota Department of Health is working with COVID-19 Community Coordinators to host four neighborhood testing opportunities.

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