The Free Press and MPR News
MANKATO — Two dozen newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Blue Earth County raised the Mankato area’s total to more than 200 over the last 10 days.
The 24 new cases come a day after state health officials reported a cluster of about 200 cases linked to bar-goers in Mankato.
Blue Earth County has now had 212 new cases confirmed since June 20, which accounts for 53% of all cases in the county since mid-March, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Cases in other south-central Minnesota counties continue to rise as well. The full list of newly identified COVID-19 cases for the region includes:
• Blue Earth County — 24
• Nicollet County — Eight
• Brown County — Three
• Le Sueur County — Three
• Watonwan County — Three
• Sibley County — Two
Faribault County had no new cases reported Tuesday, but health officials there reported a cluster of new cases linked to Seneca Foods in Blue Earth. The county is working with the company, the state health department, United Hospital District and the county’s emergency management on the response.
“We are taking a united approach to this response by identifying people who are ill as quickly as possible and ensuring that people get the medical care they need,” county health officials stated on Facebook. “Seneca Foods has been designated as critical local infrastructure and has been a great asset to our community for many years. They have proactively implemented comprehensive screening and safety measures to minimize the spread of this illness.”
Nearby counties had massive COVID-19 outbreaks stemming from food plants earlier in the pandemic. About 1 in 14 people in Nobles County tested positive for the illness after the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington had an outbreak, although new cases slowed considerably in recent weeks.
Minnesota’s overall number of cases continued to climb Tuesday, with 444 new cases reported by the health department. The state also recorded six more deaths, increasing the death toll to 1,441.
The number of patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care because of the novel coronavirus continues to decline, with eight fewer patients in the hospital, and four fewer patients in intensive care. Minnesota is now at its lowest level of hospitalization since May 1.
State health officials are urging Minnesotans to remain vigilant with social distancing, mask-wearing and other buffers against COVID-19 during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said family gatherings and other outings could lead to a spike of coronavirus infections if people ease back on safety measures.
“We certainly have seen incidents of people gathering in larger groups without social distancing and without masking, and this is a proven recipe for spread,” she said.
“And we have seen that happen in our own community and we have certainly seen that happen in other states that are seeing these big increases now.”
Malcolm said groups gathering over the Fourth of July should look for ways to meet outdoors instead of inside and reminded anyone feeling ill to opt out of celebrations and seek out a COVID-19 test.