By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The COVID-19 surge continues, as the Minnesota Department of Health reported more than 11,000 cases and 37 new deaths on Tuesday.

And while those figures do include weekend numbers, experts say there is cause for alarm.

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Esme Murphy talked with one of the nation’s leading vaccine experts.

Last year, people weren’t gathering in large spaces, weren’t going to Thanksgiving, or Vikings games. And this year, some people are wondering if they should be doing any of those activities at all.

“We should,” Dr. Gregory Poland with the Mayo Clinic said, “I would say in a modified way.”

He said that though many people are pretending the pandemic is over, it definitely is not.

Poland would like to see indoor mask mandates and says everyone should get a booster dose.

You may not have a choice of boosters now; some CVS stores for example only carry Pfizer, some only carry Moderna, and at Terminal 2 at the Twin Cities International Airport, the clinic offers Johnson & Johnson boosters.

Poland said getting a booster type different from your initial vaccine series provides more protection, offering “a slight increase in antibody levels.”

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His personal preference for boosters is either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, because they have proven more effective in studies.

COVID-19 vaccines, including the booster, still have side effects like fevers and headaches, but they are still mild.

“These vaccines for most people cause as much or more local and mild systemic reactions as any of the vaccines they are used to taking,” he said.

He added that the reason Minnesota is seeing so many COVID-19 cases right now is because so many got vaccines very early.

Ahead of the holiday, rapid home tests are widely available in stores and online for about $12. But, Poland says to keep the timing of the test in mind.

“Somebody who decides ‘you know I am going to travel home for Thanksgiving, I am going to get a rapid test and if it’s negative I am good to go,’ well, not if you were exposed yesterday, if you were exposed five days ago you probably are good to go,” he said.

Poland said the booster shot should last you for 9 to 12 months, and it may turn out that we will all need a shot every year, like the flu vaccine.

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Esme Murphy