Sep. 27—MANKATO — One Nicollet County resident and two residents in Sibley County died of COVID-19, raising the region's monthly death toll from the illness to 14.
All three people were between 80-84 years old, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
The 14 deaths from COVID-19 in south-central Minnesota so far in September are the most confirmed in a month since March had 16.
South-central Minnesota has now had 277 total COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic. A confirmed COVID-19 death means a person tested positive for the illness, then a medical examiner determined the illness caused the fatality.
The three area COVID-19 deaths were among 22 confirmed statewide Monday. Minnesota's pandemic death toll rose to 8,098.
The vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota occur in unvaccinated residents. As of late August, health department data showed about .004% of the state's COVID-19 deaths resulted from breakthrough cases after being fully vaccinated.
Nicollet County's 49 total COVID-19 deaths are the most among south-central Minnesota's nine counties. Sibley County's 12 are the second least in the region, with Watonwan County having the lowest at 11.
Per 10,000 residents, Nicollet County has a lower COVID-19 death rate than Faribault, Brown and Martin counties.
Area counties also combined for 153 new cases Monday, a rise from the previous Monday's uptick. Blue Earth County's 31 new cases were the most.
The full list of new cases confirmed Wednesday includes:
* Blue Earth County — 31
* Martin County — 22
* Waseca County — 20
* Nicollet County — 17
* Le Sueur County — 16
* Sibley County — 14
* Brown County — 13
* Faribault County — 12
* Watonwan County — 8
Although Monday's case total came in higher than the daily uptick from a week ago, recent test positivity data showed improvement throughout the region.
South-central Minnesota counties had about 8.5% of tests result in positive cases between Sept. 15-22, according to health department data. It was a drop from about 11% during the prior week.
Testing picked up considerably during the more recent time period, while case levels were flatter. The nine counties had a 34.4% increase in tests, compared to a 3.5% increase in cases.
On a county level, all nine had drops in their positivity rates last week. Blue Earth and Nicollet counties tracked closely to each other.
A 40.5% increase in testing in Blue Earth County helped bring the positivity rate down from 9.9% to 7.6%. Nicollet County's 39.5% increase in testing helped drop its positivity rate from 10.9% to 7.4%.
Watonwan County had the lowest positivity rate last week. It dropped from 11.8% to 5.8%.
Positive test rates above 5% are considered a threshold for concern about an area's transmission.
Despite last week's improvement, all nine counties remain above the threshold, and all nine are considered to have high transmission in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's tracking data.
Martin County's recent positivity rate came in the highest in the region. The county's rate dropped, but only slightly from 13.9% to 13.8%.
With a drop from 14.6% to 11.2%, Waseca County was the second county in the region to have a rate above 10%.
Minnesota's rate, in contrast to the south-central region, rose from 5.6% to 6%. South-central Minnesota has regularly had higher rates than the statewide levels dating back to mid-summer.
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