MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm gave Minnesotans regular updates on the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly two years. Lately, it’s been quieter.

“I think it indicates we’re in a different phase,” Malcolm said Wednesday.

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New COVID-19 cases have been climbing again. They’re now above the state’s “high risk” zone for new case numbers, about where things were at last August.

Still, Commissioner Malcolm says it’s still a lower risk time in the pandemic for a generally healthy person.

“We’ve got better tools to manage it now,” she said. “Between vaccines, boosters and some of the new treatment options, we are thankfully not seeing hospitalizations go up to the same degree they did previously.”

The Omicron BA-2 variant, though more contagious, has not been more deadly.

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Still, Malcolm, who received a booster shot along with Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, stops short of using the term “endemic.”

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“It’s still a very fluid situation, and there’s still a lot of virus being transmitted,” she said.

Malcolm said for the virus to be endemic, it should be in the background and be managed more easily around the world. She said MDH is still keeping a close eye on cases, hospitalizations and new variants emerging.

Mask mandates and crowd limitations are gone in Minnesota and around the country. What does that mean for people who want to avoid getting sick when cases are going back up?

“Think about your own personal risk situation, and also the risk situation of people around you,” she said.

Malcolm says that may include wearing a mask in large group settings, and testing before gathering or seeing someone higher risk.

Last week, the state legislature authorized $190 million for future pandemic response.

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“There is work yet to be done to make sure that everybody in Minnesota is as protected as they can be.”

Kate Raddatz