Stock COVID 3

The Minnesota Department of Health's testing lab handles samples of COVID-19.

The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — The Minnesota Department of Health reported 34 new cases of COVID-19 in the nine-county region Sunday, bringing the total to 2,025.

Blue Earth County reported the most, with 17 new cases and a total of 767, followed by seven new cases in Le Sueur County, four in Nicollet County, three in Watonwan County, two in Waseca County and one new case in Sibley County. Brown, Martin and Faribault counties had no new cases of the virus.

Statewide case totals continued in an upward trend, with the MDH reporting 871 new positive cases of COVID across Minnesota, bringing the cumulative total to 51,153, or about 1% of the state’s population.

Three deaths were reported Sunday in Otter Tail, Ramsey and Hennepin counties, and 273 people remain hospitalized for the virus.

To date, 957,374 Minnesotans have been tested for the virus, with 16,272 tests given between Saturday and Sunday. Of those, over 5% came back positive, the highest percentage in a week.

Minnesotans between the ages of 20-29 make up the largest share, or 24% of all positive cases, followed by people between the ages of 30-39, who make up about 19% of all positive cases in Minnesota.

The rise in cases among younger and middle-aged adults comes a day after a statewide mask mandate went into effect early Saturday.

On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce a plan on bringing kids back into school buildings. The state education department has told school leaders to prepare for anything, including some combination of in-school and online instruction.

“Nobody wants kids in school more than me,” and state officials have been working for months on how to do that safely, Walz, a former high school teacher, said Tuesday.

“We’re doing everything possible to get those kids back in those classrooms … to keep them there but also have some nimbleness” to move back to an online or hybrid model if cases start to climb, he said, adding: “This is gonna be a challenge.”

The DFL governor has suggested in recent days that there won’t be a uniform order that will determine whether school buildings reopen. On KFGO radio Friday, Walz reinforced that local decisions are important, and it will be up to school leaders to implement safety guidelines.

“It won’t necessarily look the same everywhere,” he said earlier this week, “but the outcomes need to be the same — kids and staff safe in that learning environment.”

Dan Greenwood is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at dgreenwood@mankatofreepress.com