The Free Press and MPR News
MANKATO — South-central Minnesota’s rate of positive COVID-19 cases dropped in six of nine counties this week.
The lower percentages of COVID positives included Blue Earth County, where the rate dipped for the fourth straight week. The county went from 8.4% of tests resulting in positive cases between July 1-8 to 5.5% from July 29 to Aug. 5, according to testing data from the Minnesota Department of Health.
Regionwide, the rate decreased from 4.9% to 4.2% as testing and new cases dropped as well.
Watonwan and Le Sueur counties had the biggest rate decreases. Watonwan’s rate dropped from 9.8% to 3%, while Le Sueur had a smaller decrease from 6.3% to 2.8%.
The three counties with higher rates this week were Nicollet, Sibley and Martin counties. Nicollet County’s rate has risen for two straight weeks, going from 3.6% to 5.8% during that span.
Blue Earth and Nicollet counties have had similar rates above 5% over the past two weeks. World health officials back in May recommended areas achieve lower than 5% rates for a sustained period before reopening.
Testing levels rose in five of the nine counties despite the region having 335 fewer tests overall compared to the week before. Blue Earth, Nicollet, Le Sueur, Brown and Faribault counties all had more testing.
Waseca, Watonwan, Sibley and Martin counties had lower testing totals. Martin County’s drop was the biggest, going from 538 tests the week before to 287.
Apart from the latest weekly testing figures, seven counties in the region had new cases confirmed Thursday. Only Faribault and Martin counties didn’t have new cases.
The full list of new cases in the region includes:
• Blue Earth County — Eight
• Nicollet County — Seven
• Le Sueur County — Six
• Waseca County — Five
• Sibley County — Two
• Brown County — One
• Watonwan County — One
Statewide, newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 are back on the march after several days of plateauing. The health department Thursday reported 867 new cases — one of the highest daily counts in the pandemic.
The number of people currently hospitalized (319) and the subset needing intensive care (153) also rose. It was the seventh straight day with more than 300 people still hospitalized, the first time that’s happened since late June.
Of the 58,640 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, about 88% of those infected have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
Seven more Minnesotans died, bringing the total to 1,636 since the pandemic began. Among those who’ve died, about 76% had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; nearly all had underlying health problems.
Worries remain about the growth of COVID-19 among younger Minnesotans, including that those infected will inadvertently spread the virus to grandparents and other more vulnerable people.
Minnesotans in their 20s now make up the age group with the most confirmed cases in the pandemic — nearly 14,000. The median age of Minnesotans infected has been trending down in recent weeks and is now 36 years old.
In the last few days, however, the number of people newly diagnosed with COVID-19 and younger than 20 was nearly equal to the number of newly confirmed cases among 20-somethings.
“Consider all the roles you play” in all daily interactions, Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, recently cautioned. People who might not worry about themselves should worry about infecting vulnerable family members and coworkers, she added.
Tthe Twin Cities and its suburbs have been driving Minnesota’s counts of newly reported cases.
The seven-county Twin Cities metro area represents more than two-thirds of new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and has accounted for a disproportionate share of the state’s cases since mid-May when southern Minnesota’s meatpacking hot spots were surging.
But the disease is present in all parts of the state, including the north, which had largely avoided the outbreak until recently. Cases in Beltrami County, home to Bemidji, have more than doubled in the past two weeks.
increasing to 215 as of Thursday.
The state’s fastest-growing outbreaks relative to population continue to be in northern Minnesota.