Dec. 6—MANKATO — There were three additional COVID-related deaths in the nine-county area reported Monday.
There were 298 new COVID cases reported in the region, with the data from multiple days.
One person in Martin County, age 70-74 died. A Sibley County resident age 80-84 and a Waseca County resident age 85-89 also died, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Monday.
Statewide there were 6,122 new cases reported and 38 additional deaths.
New cases in area counties:
—Blue Earth County — 80
—Waseca County — 55
—Nicollet County — 43
—Le Sueur County — 34
—Brown County — 28
—Sibley County — 19
—Martin County — 18
—Watonwan County — 11
—Faribault County — 10
Michael Osterholm, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, in an interview Monday with Minnesota Public Radio News said the evidence so far suggests the omicron variant of COVID-19 may be more transmissible than delta but might not make people as sick. He said that may be the case perhaps due to genetic information that omicron picked up from another virus that causes the common cold in humans.
"If a lot of people get (omicron) but it's not causing — on a whole — severe illness across the population, this would be incredibly good news," Osterholm said.
In an ideal world, omicron might even outcompete delta, infecting more people with a milder illness and leaving them with additional protection against SARS-CoV-2, Osterholm said.
"That could be Mother Nature's way of helping us out of this pandemic," he said. "But at this point, again, that's all just hypothetical."
Osterholm said the emergence of omicron underlines the importance of vaccine equity.
Minnesota had one of the first cases of omicron reported in the U.S. The victim was fully vaccinated, had gotten a booster and was asymptomatic, he told news outlets.
As people gather for the holidays, Osterholm urged people not to let up on pandemic precautions, no matter how tired of the pandemic they may be.
"I think a family event where everyone is fully vaccinated, and, to add an additional layer of protection, using the rapid test in the morning before that family event to make sure everybody's negative — then celebrate the holidays and have just a great time," Osterholm said. "But if you don't do that, just know you may be the one individual who creates an outbreak."
He urged people to get vaccinated if they haven't done so and for those who are eligible and haven't yet, to get boosters.