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The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — All nine counties in south-central Minnesota had newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday.

The region’s 47 combined cases represented an uptick from Sunday. They also pushed south-central Minnesota’s total number of cases during the pandemic past the 6,000 mark, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Blue Earth County had the most new cases with 12, followed by Nicollet County’s nine.

The full list of new cases in the nine-county region includes:

•Blue Earth County — 12

•Nicollet County — Nine

•Brown County — Eight

•Waseca County — Four

•Sibley County — Four

•Watonwan County — Four

•Le Sueur County — Three

•Martin County — Two

•Faribault County — One

Statewide, Minnesota’s COVID-19 caseload continues to climb with officials reporting another 1,632 cases Monday. It marked the 12th consecutive day that the state has seen new case counts of more than 1,000.

Active confirmed cases last week topped 10,000 and remain at record highs in the pandemic.

While testing for the disease remains strong, it doesn’t explain the current case growth. Cases are growing more quickly than tests, and the rate of positive tests is staying above 5%, the threshold officials find concerning.

“We are seeing faster growth in cases than in testing. We’re still not able to catch all the disease that’s out there,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters. “The rate of viral presence is still very high and growing.”

Of the 124,439 cases of the disease confirmed in the pandemic to date, about 88% have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

“There’s no question our level of concern is increasing,” Malcolm added. “The transmission is everywhere, not just one or two sources or one or two kinds of settings. It’s the individual decisions that we’re all making that’s fueling the rate of increase we’re seeing. We need to take this seriously.”

Five deaths reported Monday raised Minnesota’s toll to 2,239. Among those who’ve died, about 70% had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

While reported deaths were in single digits Monday, the death toll has risen significantly over the past 10 days.

And while surges early in the pandemic were driven largely by illnesses tied to long-term care facilities and workplace sites such as meatpacking plants, officials say the current spread is diffused, making it even harder to trace and isolate cases.

“Going out for happy hour after work with your coworkers or getting together with a bunch of friends that you haven’t seen for a while, all of that seems pretty innocuous. But in reality, all of those different interactions can lead to transmission,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told MPR News on Monday.

She said officials are concerned that Minnesotans, fatigued by more than seven months of trying to stay vigilant, are letting their guard down in private settings, even as the virus spreads.

Earlier in the day Monday, Malcolm suggested Minnesotans rethink plans for big year-end holiday gatherings.

“It’s gonna be tough. It’s going to be painful,” she said of not holding traditional celebrations, “but I think that the environment is just risky.”

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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