By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Among the most popular gifts flying off shelves this Christmas are COVID tests.

As the Omicron variant sweeps across the country, more Minnesotans are rushing to get tested. On Thursday, a second COVID-19 pill was approved as a take-at-home treatment option. Now many are wondering if their families should gather around the tree.

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Bree Dalager plans to spend Christmas at home with her dog, a vegan roast, and a video chat with family in Minnesota, Colorado and California.

“We just decided no, it’s just not safe,” she said. “It’s just exasperating that we’re still at this point.”

Dr. Beth Thielen, of the University of Minnesota Medical school and M Health Fairview, says the vaccination status and overall health of one’s loved ones are important to consider before gathering this holiday season.

“In the setting of Omicron, I’ve seen some concerning reports about how infectious it can be,” she said.

What will reduce risk is limiting the size of gatherings. If possible, it’d be helpful to hold get-togethers outdoors or wear masks indoors.

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Anyone showing any symptoms at all is advised to stay home and not attend holiday gatherings, Thielen said.

Testing as close as possible to an event could also provide some peace of mind.

Still, finding a last-minute, over-the-counter test could be a challenge. WCCO called three different pharmacies in the Twin Cities on Thursday and all were sold out.

Those who’ve recently taken a PCR test should know that the lab in Oakdale will be closed Friday and Saturday, so results could take longer. State testing sites are also closed until after Christmas. Information on other testing locations can be found here.

While staying at home again this year is tough for Dalager, she hopes next year her family won’t be celebrating through a screen.

“We’re all suffering from missing people that we love and spending normal holidays with them,” she said. “We all want to go back to normal.”

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Erin Hassanzadeh