The Free Press and MPR News
MANKATO — South-central Minnesota had fewer new COVID-19 cases over the last week than in any week since mid-June.
The region’s nine counties combined for 159 new cases between Aug. 1-7, down from 229 the week before. Testing was also down in the region during roughly the same time period, although the percentage of tests resulting in positive cases dropped.
Eight of the nine counties had fewer new cases this week, about two weeks since Minnesota’s mask mandate took effect.
Blue Earth County’s new case total decreased from 89 to 69, the biggest drop among the region’s counties. Only Sibley County had more cases than the week before, increasing from three to seven.
The region had 335 fewer tests between July 29 and Aug. 5, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. Even if testing levels remained as high as the week before, however, the region’s weekly total could’ve still dropped due to a lower positivity rate.
As for new cases reported Friday, eight of the nine counties had an uptick. Only Nicollet County’s total remained the same.
The full list of new cases in the region Friday includes:
• Blue Earth County — 13
• Watonwan County — Six
• Le Sueur County — Three
• Brown County — Two
• Faribault County — Two
• Martin County — Two
• Waseca County — One
• Sibley County — One
Statewide, Minnesota’s top public health leaders on Friday warned that hard-won gains over COVID-19 are in danger, and that the massive motorcycle rally kicking off this weekend in Sturgis, South Dakota, may bring trouble back to Minnesota.
“Nobody likes to tell people they shouldn’t go out and have fun and live their lives. But the hard truth is we are in a historic pandemic,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said of the rally.
“We have big problems in Minnesota, and in the United States, with community transmission — and the idea of bringing together tens and hundreds of thousands of people from all around the country in close contact for days at a time does raise significant concerns,” she told reporters.
Malcolm again urged Minnesotans going to Sturgis to self-isolate for 14 days after they get back home.
She and other experts renewed their overall worry that Minnesotans are backsliding in efforts to stem COVID-19 as the disease ripples through communities, fed by people returning to public spaces.
Malcolm’s remarks came hours after the latest data released by her department showed something of a respite from some of the recent big daily increases in new cases and hospitalizations.
The health department reported 556 new cases, lower than over the past week and significantly down from Thursday’s report.
Two closely watched metrics — people currently hospitalized (300) and those needing intensive care (155) — also flattened from their recent climb, although Friday marked the eighth straight day with 300 or more people still hospitalized, the first time that’s happened since late June.
Of the 59,185 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, about 88% of those diagnosed have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.
Four more people died, bringing the total to 1,640 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.
While current hospitalizations remain far lower than their late-May peak, they’ve shown an upward swing the past few weeks even as the daily growth in new cases flattened.