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Gather Only With Vaccinated Family Members For Holidays, Dr. Osterholm Says

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - The FDA signed off on COVID-19 booster shots for adults. But some worry it's coming too late to turn around Minnesota's latest surge.

WCCO talked to the state's top infectious disease expert to talk boosters, breakthrough cases, and the best way to handle the holidays this year.

At the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, Michael Osterholm worries about the weeks ahead in Minnesota.

"This thing is far from over," he said.

He believes it's still too early to determine why one geographic area will see a spike in COVID cases over another.

But, he says we all play a part in the size of that surge through vaccinations and boosters in a state about 75% vaccinated.

"A quarter unvaccinated still represents a lot of human wood for this coronavirus forest fire to burn and that's what's happening," Osterholm said.

"We are beginning to see an increasing number of breakthrough cases people who have been vaccinated six or more months for which that's why we now recommend the booster so that can help alleviate," he added.

Osterholm thinks the definition of fully vaccinated could soon change to include boosters.

But, no decision has been reached on the state or federal level for doing so, acknowledging the difficulty in enforcing and tracking such a system.

"If you're getting together for the holidays feel empowered to protect yourself," Osterholm said.

Osterholm is most concerned with what happens over the holidays, suggesting people only gather with others who are vaccinated, recognizing the rifts it could cause.

"The bottom line is you don't want to have a holiday get-together and then have high transmission occur. Because some people will have a higher risk or a bad outcome like grandma and grandpa and then have a bad outcome occur," Osterholm said.

He can't say for sure when a peak is ahead.

"Clearly case numbers are still climbing all the indications we have in terms of test positivity rate would suggest we still have more to go with this surge before we hit the peak," he said.

Osterholm says booster shots begin providing protection in about a week to 10 days.

It could be up to five weeks if someone is just beginning their vaccine series right now.

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