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COVID outlook looks promising as Minnesotans prepare for Thanksgiving gatherings

Health officials do not expect a surge in cases this holiday season now that so many people have immunity.

MINNEAPOLIS — After two years of COVID disruptions, the holidays look better this time around.

In Minnesota, all Twin Cities metro counties have "low" transmission entering Thanksgiving, according to CDC data. Statewide, 18 counties have "medium" transmission, and only one — Rice County — is considered "high." Overall, COVID hospitalizations and cases are dramatically lower this Thanksgiving than last year, and 67.6 percent of Minnesotans over the age of 5 are now considered fully vaccinated.

This week, White House officials said they are monitoring a new subvariant, but they do not expect the same kind of surge that omicron caused last holiday season. That's because so many people now have immunity, either through the vaccine or from getting the virus.

"If people are up to date on their vaccines, they don't end up in the hospital, they don't end up dying, especially if they get treated if they have a breakthrough infection. So we are now at the point where we can protect people from serious illness," said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. "If you want to get through the holidays safely, if you want to avoid getting really sick during the holidays, this is the single most important thing that you can do."

Of course, COVID is still circulating, and the flu and RSV are making a comeback this winter season. 

But people seem more comfortable this Thanksgiving as they prepare for bigger gatherings. 

At Lowry Hill Meats in Minneapolis, manager and head butcher Gabriel Carlson said the store sold out of pre-ordered turkeys. Most notably, he said, people are buying larger turkeys so that they can feed more people.

"The first shutdown, during that Thanksgiving, it was a lot smaller birds. A lot of people were doing chickens versus turkeys," Carlson said. "Now people are getting back together with their families, and doing bigger turkeys."

Judith Sims came to Lowry Hill Meats to pick up Thanksgiving supplies and said she's remaining cautious this holiday season. However, she did invite an out-of-town visitor from Hungary to join the festivities.

"We haven't let him come for the last two years," Sims said. "This is the year we said, 'OK, you can come!'"

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