(KNSI) – Minnesota lawmakers are taking notice of the effect of the COVID-19 omicron variant on the state. The Minnesota House Health Finance and Policy Committee held a remote hearing on Thursday to discuss COVID-19’s status, including the omicron variant and the pandemic’s impact on health care.
Statewide test positivity is currently at 19.8%, the highest ever reported during the pandemic. CentraCare Health says the test positivity rate at their lab in St. Cloud is at 33%.
Committee Chair Representative Tina Liebling the pandemic has touched everyone.
“All of us are experiencing the pandemic to one degree or another. It has so many impacts on all of us. But the people who are working on the frontlines of health care are having this experience in a in a very different way than most of us. They are seeing this firsthand. And they are understanding this impact in a way that the rest of us really are not.”
The committee also heard from several workers about the pandemic’s impact on health care in the state, including those in emergency rooms and intensive care units.
“We’re in a situation where we need everyone’s help we need to really come together and fight this pandemic together and so it’s really important for us to hear from the people on the frontlines.”
The Minnesota Department of Health says there’s widespread community transmission and hospitalizations will continue to increase. MDH says omicron is highly infectious, doubling every day-and-a-half to three days and as a result, the health care system capacity continues to face pressure.
Illnesses among health care workers and families, along with childcare and school closures, are further exacerbating already strained staffing.
Officials say the vaccine is strong in its effectiveness against serious illness and hospitalization, especially when given a booster shot, and encouraged other layered mitigation strategies including wearing high-quality masks, social distancing, avoiding large crowds, and hand washing.