MANKATO — As the region’s number of COVID-19 cases jumped over the last two weeks, more congregate care facilities dealt with exposures among residents, staff or both.

Most of Minnesota’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred in congregate care settings, which range from nursing homes to assisted living facilities to group homes. South-central Minnesota has had at least 14 facilities with COVID-19 exposures since the pandemic began, including at Security Hospital in St. Peter.

Not all still have active cases, but the Minnesota Department of Health recently reported several new facilities with exposures in Blue Earth, Nicollet and Sibley counties.

The facilities include:

  • Autumn Grace Memory Care in Mankato
  • Hillcrest Rehabilitation Center in Mankato
  • Crystal Seasons Living Center in Lake Crystal
  • Pheasants Ridge in St. Peter
  • Forensic Nursing Home, also known as the Minnesota Security Hospital, in St. Peter
  • Good Samaritan Society in Arlington

They joined Pillars of Mankato, Cottagewood Senior Communities Mankato, Oak Terrace Assisted Living in North Mankato, St. John Lutheran Home in Springfield, Friendship Court in Blue Earth, Temperance Lake Ridge in Sherburn, Oak Terrace Health Care Center in Gaylord and Good Samaritan Society in St. James among facilities with COVID-19 exposures during the pandemic.

No residents at Hillcrest or Crystal Seasons Living Center, both Monarch Healthcare Management facilities, have tested positive, said Marc Halpert, Monarch’s chief operating officer. The exposures were among employees who’ve been recovering at home since they came into contact with the virus.

Staff at Crystal Seasons alerted the facility about their potential exposure at bars linked to Blue Earth County’s jump in cases. Several workers also tested negative for the virus.

Hillcrest’s positive case involved a worker who went out one weekend and lived with a roommate who later tested positive. Halpert said he understood why workers want to enjoy summer gatherings during their free time, but the cases are a reminder of why social distancing is still so important.

“We need to remember that this is still a virus and it’s still dangerous,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of great staff who have sacrificed their personal get-togethers to stay safe.”

He also noted how helpful it is when restaurants and bars go public about cases traced back to the establishments. Doing so helps customers know they might’ve been exposed and, therefore, shouldn’t return to work right away in settings with vulnerable populations.

The recent COVID-19 exposures at Forensic Services in St. Peter, or the Minnesota Security Hospital, involved one patient and three staff, according to the Department of Human Services. Another two staff members tested positive early in the spring and have since recovered.

The patient is being monitored in isolation, while all staff get screened before their shifts along with wearing masks on the job. The facility suspended nonessential client outings in the community in mid-March.

“This is the first positive case of a patient on our campus, and we have had five confirmed cases among staff,” said Carol Olson, Forensic Services executive director, in a statement. “We need to remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Her statement added that the facility is following health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice for screening staff, wearing masks and social distancing.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola