Osterholm: Minnesota has ‘long way to go’ before reaching 70% vaccination goal

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On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz said he plans to repeal Minnesota’s mask mandate by July 1 or once the state reaches a 70% vaccination rate — whichever comes first. COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and capacity limits will be lifted by the end of May.

But University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the state has a “long way to go” to get there.

“Only about 47% of the state has even a single dose in their arm and closer to only 36% are fully vaccinated,” Osterholm said. “That leaves a lot of people out there that are surely able to get infected and still transmit the disease.”

Osterholm said the state’s focus now has to be reaching that 70% vaccination threshold and beyond because there are mutations of the virus that are concerning with no guarantee that new variants won’t show up in the near future as well.

“But the good news is the vaccinations have been successful against one of the more virulent strains of the virus known as the UK variant,” Osterholm said. “This is one of the variants that is not likely to reduce your immune protection from vaccines or natural infections, and that’s the good news in this.”

Osterholm said the announcement from the governor shows things are moving in the right direction, but getting more people vaccinated is the key to prevent the state from taking a step backward.

“For vaccinated individuals, in a private home or wherever, party hard and enjoy it, because you’ve earned it and you can feel safe in doing that,” Osterholm said. “And, that’s what we have to help people understand that this is going to make a real difference in getting our communities back to this new normal.”