New COVID-19 cases slightly down in region Saturday

Brian Arola, The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.
·3 min read

Apr. 3—MANKATO — The nine area counties combined for 67 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Saturday, a slight drop from the totals seen over the previous five days.

Case totals were elevated up in the 70s to 90s from Monday to Friday. The last time a five-day stretch had that many cases was in January.

The counties in south-central Minnesota also had no new COVID-19 deaths Saturday, keeping its pandemic toll at 228.

Minnesota had 11 deaths linked to the illness statewide. The state's pandemic death toll rose to 6,875.

Of the 67 new cases confirmed in the nine-county region, 17 were in Brown County. Blue Earth County's 16 were the next most.

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

* Brown County — 17

* Blue Earth County — 16

* Le Sueur County — 9

* Nicollet County — 8

* Waseca County — 6

* Faribault County — 4

* Sibley County — 3

* Martin County — 3

* Watonwan County — 1

With Minnesota's COVID-19 inoculation pace firmly on the right track and the state expecting a big jump in vaccine shipments next week, the statewide pandemic picture seems bright overall. Adding to the good news: a single-day record 85,573 vaccinations reported in Saturday's update.

Officials, though, remain increasingly anxious as new cases and hospitalizations climb.

While the state's push to get shots into arms seems to be humming along now, active COVID-19 cases are climbing; intensive care patient counts are at their highest level in more than two months.

The record single-day vaccination total reported Saturday by the health department pushed the seven-day trend to nearly 55,000 shots daily — the highest since vaccinations began in late December.

More than 1.1 million Minnesotans are fully inoculated while more than 1.7 million have received at least one dose, including more than 82% of residents age 65 and older.

In south-central Minnesota, 50,020 residents — about 21.5% of the population — are fully inoculated. A total of 76,463 residents — 32.9% — have received at least one dose.

For residents age 16 and older, all nine area counties have more than one-third of residents vaccinated with at least one dose.

But as the trend lines move in the right direction on vaccinations, they're headed the wrong way around the disease.

Saturday's data shows the state's positive test rate trending for a fifth day above 5% — a warning sign about a possible surge. South-central Minnesota's positivity rate was 6.9% over roughly the last week.

The good news is that many of the state's highest-risk residents, including seniors, have received at least one dose already and Minnesota expects to see its federal vaccine supply shipments jump during the month.

Officials have described the current situation, though, as a race against time to vaccinate as many Minnesotans as possible before the COVID-19 variants can get a stronger foothold in the state. The number of known, active cases has been trending upward over the past few weeks, with 16,368 active cases as of Saturday's report — marking 16 consecutive days with active counts above 10,000, a stretch not seen since January.

While still low compared to late November and early December, the rising trend is notable given the worries over the rise of the U.K. COVID-19 strain, which state health officials suspect is driving the current upswing.

Hospitalizations counts are also moving higher. The latest health department data showed 439 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals; 112 needed intensive care — the highest ICU needs and hospitalizations since late January.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola