MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Health leaders say the Omicron variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Minnesota. They say it spreads much easier than earlier versions of the virus.

The state is preparing for a jump in COVID cases – with one of the most recent to be infected is the governor himself.

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During a virtual press conference, Gov. Tim Walz announced from home he has no plans to institute any kind of mandate as the Omicron variant spreads.

“What we believe is the tools that are best equipped to fight this are continuing to vaccinate, continue to be boosted, testing and isolating where you can, and then masking when you can go in,” Walz said.

He says the earlier mask mandate offered more protection before the vaccines arrived, and people who would follow masking already are.

Gov. Tim Walz during Wednesday’s virtual press conference (credit: CBS)

“My wife and I are doing fine. We’re experiencing just mild symptoms,” Walz said.

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They tested after their son came home from school with the sniffles. All three have COVID.

“I would tell folks out there that I kind of heard this for the last week to 10 days of people saying ‘Boy, there’s kind of a bad cold going around.’ That’s probably Omicron,” Walz said.

He emphasized free rapid testing and the PCR, or saliva test, is available at sites across the state, and said people should utilize the resource to protect loved ones during the holidays.

“This one appears to be faster, quicker. It’s incubation period is shorter, and we saw that,” Walz said. “You can go from negative in the morning to positive at night through your whole family.”

Doctors say vaccinations are our way out of this pandemic. The health department says you can enjoy a safer holiday if you are vaccinated and boosted. Get tested before you go to gatherings. And mask indoors in public places.

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Jennifer Mayerle