COVID-19 cases remain low in area Tuesday

Brian Arola, The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

Apr. 27—MANKATO — South-central Minnesota had another relatively small uptick in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday.

Area counties combined for 47 new cases and no new deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The 47 new cases came after the region had 46 Monday.

Minnesota had 12 COVID-19 deaths confirmed statewide, raising the state's pandemic death toll to 7,091.

A first grader from Marshall was among the deaths. School officials announced the child's death Monday, leading to the fatality being included in the health department's Tuesday update.

Cases continue to circulate in schools across the state. State health officials are urging parents to get their children tested on a regular basis as a way to control the spread of COVID-19 variants.

Of the 47 cases confirmed in the south-central region Tuesday, 22 were in Blue Earth County. Martin County had the next most with 10.

All nine area counties had at least one new case. The full list of new cases by county includes:

* Blue Earth County — 22

* Martin County — 10

* Nicollet County — 5

* Le Sueur County — 2

* Watonwan County — 2

* Sibley County — 2

* Faribault County — 2

* Brown County — 1

* Waseca County — 1

Statewide, the retreat of known, active cases in Minnesota continues. The count came in at 14,317 in Tuesday's numbers — the lowest since March 31 and down from the most recent peak of about 20,000 in mid-April.

Given the state's vaccination efforts, officials said they didn't expect this spring wave would match the 50,000 active cases seen at the top of the late November surge, but they remained worried given the rise in new COVID-19 strains.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive continues to dip after a recent upswing. The trend line Tuesday remained just below the 5% threshold that experts find concerning.

Overall hospitalizations had been climbing the past few weeks, hovering at levels not seen since January. Tuesday's numbers showed 641 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 184 needed intensive care.

Both figures are down from the prior week. Hospitalizations often stay higher for several weeks following an increase in active cases.

Minnesota's vaccination pace continues to plateau as officials work now to reach out to those who haven't been vaccinated.

More than 2.4 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose, and more than 1.8 million Minnesotans have completed their vaccinations, as of Tuesday's update. That works out to about 41% of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and 56% with at least one shot, including 86% of those 65 and older.

In south-central Minnesota, about 40.3% of eligible residents — 75,534 people — are completely vaccinated. About 51.8% — 97,049 — have at least one dose.

The state's vaccination efforts have been hampered the past few weeks by supply cuts, particularly of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which federal authorities paused earlier this month as they investigated the possibility of rare side effects associated with the shot.

Daily vaccine shots fell below 15,000 for the first time in more than a month. Shots peaked at nearly 90,000 a day just three weeks ago. The pace may pick up, after federal health officials Friday lifted the pause on using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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