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COVID-19's Delta Variant Is On The Rise In MN, Experts Talk Boosters

MINNESOTA (WCCO) - The delta variant of COVID-19 is on the rise in Minnesota with 110 cases of it in the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

That accounts for 11% of total variant cases of the coronavirus in Minnesota. 17 people in the state have been hospitalized and two have passed away from it.

Pfizer is currently asking the FDA for approval of a booster that would prevent the delta variant, and as WCCO found out, that has people asking questions.

It's a conversation topic at Wilson's Image Barber's & Stylists. While cutting hair on Friday afternoon, shop owner Teto Wilson tells WCCO, "Most people come to barber shops for many different reasons, mostly for haircuts. But people trust barbers, trust the messengers of the community."

Teto Wilson is so trusted in this north Minneapolis neighborhood, that he's been tapped by the health department and a community initiative by the Biden administration to help convince people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"If they've been on the fence about it, they can come in here and see that we're doing it and say I'll go ahead and take it. So I just feel like it's part of my obligation to the community," Wilson said.

And it's working, five more people were vaccinated by lunch time at Wilsons shop. But with the pop-up clinic, questions pop-up too. Teto says a common one is, "Are we gonna need another vaccine on top of what we already got?"

Kris Ehresmann, MDH's Director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, said it's a valid question as delta makes it's arrival.

"We are seeing it increase here in Minnesota, a couple of weeks ago, it was less than 1% of our variant cases and now it's more than 10%. So we are seeing it increase," said Ehresmann.

Pfizer is looking into a booster to cover the variant, but Ehersmann said as of now it appears current vaccines do provide protection against the variant, but more shots are possible.

"We need to keep it from disrupting our lives and if that means we need to get a booster every few years, I think that is probably a small ask given the amount of disruption that we've experienced in the last year and a half," said Ehersmann.

She said the ultimate goal with the vaccine is to achieve one similar to the measles shot - which offers protection for life.

Wilson said he has no problem accepting a possible booster if it means staying safe.

"If it comes to that, for me, that there's a need to take another vaccine, that's gonna keep me alive, I'm gonna take it," said Wilson.

In the meantime, the popular barber is going to keep making sure his neighbors are looking good - and feeling good.

"We just want to make sure people are alive, that's it," said Wilson.

As part of a federal initiative, Wilson's Barber Shop in North Minneapolis is offering free vaccines – and soon 13 other barber shops and salons will follow.

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