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Mar. 16—MANKATO — Area counties combined for 56 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases but no new deaths Tuesday.
The new cases were a slight uptick from Monday's 50 and relatively high number compared to most other Tuesdays over the past month, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
With no newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths in south-central Minnesota, the region's pandemic death toll remained at 224. Minnesota had two more COVID-19 deaths statewide, raising the state's toll to 6,749 during the pandemic.
For new cases, Blue Earth County's 14 were the most in the nine-county region. Brown County had the second most with 12, followed by Nicollet County's nine.
The only area county without at least one newly confirmed case Tuesday was Waseca. It did have one probable case, however, meaning a resident had an antigen test come back positive rather than a confirmed PCR test.
The full list of newly confirmed cases by county includes:
* Blue Earth County — 14
* Brown County — 12
* Nicollet County — 9
* Martin County — 7
* Faribault County — 6
* Le Sueur County — 5
* Sibley County — 2
* Watonwan County — 1
Statewide, Minnesota officials believe they're in a race now to vaccinate Minnesotans quickly enough to avoid another statewide COVID-19 surge. But the pace of vaccinations continues to struggle for traction.
The health department Tuesday reported about 7,500 new vaccinations, down from more than 20,000 the prior Tuesday and one of the lowest counts during the past month. The seven-day trend is now running just below 40,000 shots daily.
It's not necessarily a problem as the state expects to see federal vaccine shipments jump in the coming weeks. Right now, though, the overall trend is flat to declining following an early March jump.
Nearly 730,000 people — 13.1% of the state's population — have completed their vaccinations while more than 1.2 million — nearly 23% — have received at least one dose, including more than 75% of people age 65 and older.
About 12.8% of residents in south-central Minnesota, or 29,786 people, have been completely vaccinated. About 23.5%, or 54,541 people, have received at least the first dose.
Officials continue to urge Minnesotans to stay vigilant against the disease, wearing masks in public gathering spaces and socially distancing.
Minnesota's COVID-19 numbers show disease conditions continue to stay mostly stable, although there has been a noticeable rise recently in the number of known, active cases. Sunday saw a one-month high, although the count ticked down Tuesday to 8,235.
While the overall trend remains flat and current counts are still very low compared to late November and early December, the increase is notable given the concerns about the rise of the U.K. COVID-19 strain in Minnesota.
Hospitalization rates remain mostly steady at levels last seen before the late-fall surge in cases: 260 people were hospitalized with the disease as of Sunday with 59 needing intensive care.
State public health leaders remain anxious about a Carver County outbreak that includes the very contagious U.K. strain. Twelve people have been hospitalized statewide from that strain; two have died.
"We are very concerned about this (U.K.) variant and its rapid spread. It has the potential to be a setback to our continued and hard-fought progress against the disease," Dan Huff, an assistant health commissioner, told reporters Monday.
With more than 250 cases of the U.K. variant confirmed statewide, it has the potential to spread throughout the state unless checked, Huff said.
Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola