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Minnesota's COVID-19 situation is likely going to become more stressed in the coming weeks, according to Gov. Tim Walz's prediction. 

The governor joined Vineeta Sawkar on WCCO Radio Monday morning and said modeling he's been shown by the Mayo Clinic and another source (which he didn't name) suggest cases could surge significantly in the next few weeks. 

"I had a long briefing last week with two of the major modelings, one Mayo of course, and the Mayo model does an incredibly good job of modeling hospital capacity over about 2- to 3-week period," Walz said. "About the third week of January, we're still going to be going. We've had this long plateau of the delta variant. Omicron is different. It will spike hard. Those that are boosted, those that have shots – for the most part – will not see severe illness. But with the sheer volume of this, we are going to see more people getting this. Significantly more." 

When asked what Mayo Clinic's model predicts in the next few weeks, a senior communications specialist from Mayo Clinic told Bring Me The News, "We don't have more to add at this time." 

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post last week and stated the current omicron surge "represents one of the greatest public health challenges not only of the pandemic but also of our lifetime."

Osterholm joined WCCO Radio on Monday and predicted the next 3-4 weeks will be challenging in Minnesota and across the U.S., noting during the interview his bold claim in The Washington Post was related to hospital capacity issues and other workforce delays – restaurants, airlines, etc. – because of significant numbers of employees out sick.  

"This one I think is going to happen over the course of the next 3-4 weeks, where we're going to see so many people who are ill," Osterholm said. "But, fortunately, this is a milder disease than what we saw with delta. The challenge being of course if you have many, many more times the people infected than would be with delta, even if you have a smaller proportion of people with severe disease, it can still challenge our healthcare systems." 

Walz said his conversations with medical experts in Minnesota reiterated the point that "It doesn't matter if we have beds if there is nobody there to care for you." 

Through Jan. 3, the Minnesota Department of Health's public dashboard shows just 30 staffed adult ICU beds and 11 staffed pediatric ICU beds available in the entire state. 

"If you take 10-20% of the healthcare workers out for 5-10 days, suddenly that hanging on by the skin of your teeth problem becomes a more significant problem," said Osterholm. 

The omicron variant has been surging in New York and hospitalizations statewide there have increased by nearly 200% in the past month, according to NBC New York. The number of people per 100,000 testing positive in New York is a stunning 340, which is top in the U.S. 

Minnesota is currently at 73 cases per 100,000 people, according to the New York Times

Meanwhile, it has been very difficult if not impossible to find stores in Minnesota with available at-home COVID rapid tests, and walk-up testing sites throughout the Twin Cities were slammed with people hoping to get tested on Monday. It was busy to the point at the MSP Airport testing site that they stopped allowing walk-up customers at 2 p.m. in an effort to "reduce crowding." 

Walz, First Lady Gwen Walz and their son all tested positive for COVID-19 just before Christmas. The governor said Monday his family was a "perfect example" of what omicron can be: "feels like a cold coming on but it's not, it's more serious than that and the potential to spread it is greater." 

According to the CDC, those who are vaccinated and boosted have a good chance of fighting off serious illness, which is possible with omicron despite early evidence that suggests it is overall less lethal than the delta variant. 

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