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The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — Eight of the nine counties in south-central Minnesota had newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday, combining for 36 total.

The new cases were a relatively small uptick compared to daily totals over the last two weeks, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Mondays and Tuesdays, however, often have lower totals due to reporting lags from the weekend.

Area counties also reported no new COVID deaths Monday, after having two during the weekend. South-central Minnesota’s pandemic death toll remains at 211.

The health department confirmed one new COVID death statewide, raising Minnesota’s toll to 6,433.

For cases confirmed Monday, Blue Earth County’s 13 were the most in the south-central region. Nicollet County had the second most with eight.

Only Watonwan County didn’t have at least one new case Monday.

The full list of newly confirmed cases by county includes:

•Blue Earth County — 13

•Nicollet County — 8

•Martin County — 4

•Waseca County — 3

•Brown County — 3

•Le Sueur County — 2

•Faribault County — 2

•Sibley County — 1

Statewide, Minnesota’s COVID vaccination effort is struggling again for traction following a mild upswing. Officials, though, are anticipating a busy week as some 45,000 weather-delayed shots make their way into the state atop the expected 100,000 doses from the feds.

State public health leaders last week warned the cold snap that gripped the nation recently would delay vaccine shipments to Minnesota, potentially depressing vaccination counts in the short term. Some clinics were postponed.

“The good news is that we’re seeing a return to normal on that front,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters Monday. “We hope to be back to normal operations and scheduling in the next week or so.”

The health department Monday reported about 20,000 new vaccinations. The vast majority of those, however, were second doses.

About 13.7% of Minnesotans had received at least one dose as of Saturday, with about 6.4% completely vaccinated. Nearly 42% of Minnesotans 65 and older have received at least one shot.

Minnesota is ranked 19th among states in doses administered per 100,000 people, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Minnesota had been as low as 25th on that ranking.

In south-central Minnesota, a total of 30,713 residents in the nine area counties received first doses as of Saturday. It equals about 13.2% of the population.

A total of 13,104 area residents completed both doses, or about 5.6% of the population, according to health department vaccine data.

Gov. Tim Walz’s office announced Hy-Vee pharmacies in Minnesota are joining Walmart and Thrifty White in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. The move could help boost vaccination progress in the Mankato area.

Hy-Vee will administer more than 10,000 doses of the vaccine this week to adults 65 years of age and older at more than 30 Hy-Vee sites in the state, the governor’s office said in a statement.

Vaccination questions aside, Minnesota’s COVID numbers show the state continuing on a steady, positive path. Monday marked the first day all public middle and high schools were allowed to reopen their buildings to students.

Hospitalization rates are particularly encouraging. There were 235 people with COVID in Minnesota hospitals as of Sunday. Forty-eight needed intensive care, dropping below 50 for the first time since early April.

The seven-day hospital admissions trend for people with COVID also has receded to September levels.

Known active cases slipped back below 7,000. The overall trend remains solid, hovering around late September levels.

The state has recorded 479,591 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 561 reported Monday.

State health officials continue to remind Minnesotans that the pandemic is not over yet and that new virus strains circulating in the United States may be more contagious.

Ehresmann on Monday also warned that outbreaks are continuing, noting 23 in January tied to gyms and other similar facilities.

“There is a risk in any indoor settings that bring people from different households together,” she said, urging Minnesotans to continue to wear masks in indoor gathering spaces, socially distance and otherwise stay vigilant against the disease’s spread.

State officials didn’t have a specific response Monday to news that the Minnesota Twins are proposing to allow 10,000 fans at Target Field when the baseball season starts in early April.

“Directionally, it’s where we all want to go,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said, adding that if Minnesotans keep working to stem the spread and vaccinations continue to ramp up, “we are truly optimistic about the prospect of fans getting into sports venues in 2021.”

,Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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