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The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — South-central Minnesota’s start to May has had relatively small COVID-19 upticks compared to much of April.

The nine area counties combined for 50 newly confirmed cases Monday, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. No day in May has topped 70 new cases yet, after the final three days in April all surpassed the threshold.

Area counties also had no new COVID-19 deaths confirmed, although there were three statewide. Minnesota’s pandemic death toll rose to 7,163.

Of the 50 new cases in the south-central region, Blue Earth County’s 20 were the most. Nicollet County had the next most with six.

All nine area counties had at least one new case. The full list of new cases by county includes:

•Blue Earth County — 20

•Nicollet County — 6

•Le Sueur County — 5

•Sibley County — 5

•Watonwan County — 4

•Martin County — 4

•Faribault County — 3

•Waseca County — 2

•Brown County — 1

Statewide, Minnesota’s newest COVID-19 report is another mixed bag of hope and concern.

Active case counts are at their lowest since March 31, but the current seven-day vaccination trend also has fallen to late March levels. That’s slowing the state’s efforts to reach herd immunity.

More than 2.5 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 2 million have completed their vaccinations, as of Monday’s update.

That works out to about 45% of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and nearly 57% with at least one shot, including 87% of those 65 and older.

In south-central Minnesota, about 43.5% of the eligible population — 81,479 people — are completely vaccinated. About 53.1% — 99,503 — have received at least one dose.

Minnesota’s vaccination pace has been slipping in recent weeks as officials work now to reach out to those who for whatever reasons haven’t been vaccinated. The state’s vaccination efforts have been hampered the past few weeks by supply cuts, particularly of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Officials, however, also acknowledge the state must do more to connect unvaccinated people to shots.

While the disease trends continue to show Minnesota on the downslope of a recent wave, public health leaders are pleading with residents to stay vigilant against spreading the disease — and to get vaccinated. Officials remain anxious about the flattening pace of vaccinations and what seems to be a wavering public will around mask-wearing and other COVID-19 precautions.

Overall, though, the disease metrics look solid enough that Gov. Tim Walz in the coming days is expected to loosen some pandemic curbs, likely raising capacity limits for bars, restaurants and other indoor public gathering spaces.

The count of known, active COVID-19 cases fell to 14,141 in Monday’s numbers, down from the most recent peak of about 20,000 in mid-April and the lowest it’s been since late March. The positive test rate remains just below the 5% threshold that experts find concerning.

Monday’s report showed 576 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 155 needed intensive care. Both figures continue to trend down from their recent peaks.

The state has recorded 580,340 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 1,105 posted Monday. About 96% of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point where they no longer need to isolate.

Regionally, all parts of Minnesota are in better shape than they were in late November and early December. Case counts had been creeping up the past few weeks across the state, but the trend appears to have peaked.

Officials continue to implore Minnesotans to keep their guard up during proms, graduations and other spring events, noting that more contagious COVID-19 variants are driving new cases across the state.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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