Minnesota health officials: No omicron found here -- yet

Minnesota health officials said Monday they had not found any cases of the new omicron COVID-19 variant in the state, while echoing calls for Minnesotans to get their shots to protect against the virus.

Warnings about omicron come as Minnesota struggles to overcome a surge in cases blamed on the current variant, delta. Hospitals reported 1,467 COVID-related patients on Monday, up 50 percent from the start of November. The number of new positive tests have fallen modestly in the past two weeks, though it's unclear what effect Thanksgiving gatherings could have.

Gov. Tim Walz lacks the power to impose new shutdowns or mask mandates. Walz has said state law bars him from implementing any vaccine mandates apart from the existing requirement for state government workers, which includes a weekly testing option.

Countries across the world have scrambled to shut their doors as they try to keep the omicron variant out, preferring not to wait until scientists determine transmissibility, the severity of illnesses, or whether vaccines protect against it. President Joe Biden said Monday that he was not following other countries into lockdown nor calling on states to impose tougher restrictions.

"This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic," Biden told reporters at the White House. He said the U.S. had the power to blunt omicron's impacts without new mandates that have widely fallen out of favor across the U.S.

Instead, Biden urged unvaccinated people -- including 1.6 million Minnesotans ages 5 and up -- to get their shots. All U.S. adults should get a booster, he said. In Minnesota, 28 percent of fully vaccinated adults have gotten a booster, which is one of the best percentages in the country.