MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With the surge of COVID-19 cases, we are starting to see some of the restrictions we saw at the height of last winter’s outbreak.

Fridley schools are going online and a number of Catholic masses were canceled Sunday.

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Last winter when COVID-19 numbers spiked, vaccinations were just beginning to be available. Right now, nearly 70% of Minnesotans 5 or older have both doses of the vaccine. But the Omicron variant is so contagious that there are more and more breakthrough cases. Experts continue to say that those who have been vaccinated and boosted have dramatically less of risk of hospitalization or dying.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm of the Minnesota Department of Health says don’t overlook the seriousness of Omicron. Most cases are milder, but it still can be fatal. And the number of cases is so great that the number of people who become seriously ill is overwhelming hospitals.

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Experts say the worst of the entire pandemic is still to come.

“I do think these next few weeks we are seeing our case numbers just literally skyrocket,” Malcolm said. “We are going to see the highest numbers that we’ve seen yet in the pandemic, and unfortunately our hospitals are very, very full already.”

Staffed ICU beds statewide are in short supply. This weekend, the metro area had two available staffed adult ICU beds and five staffed ICU pediatric beds. And that impacts anyone who is sick, including those who don’t have COVID. Badly understaffed hospitals are pleading that anyone with mild symptoms should not go to an emergency room asking for a COVID test.

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Esme Murphy