UPDATE: Marshall first grader dies of COVID-19

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

Apr. 26—MANKATO — Although no newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths were reported Monday in south-central Minnesota, a first grader in Marshall died of COVID-19 complications.

School leaders confirmed the child died Sunday.

"I recognize this is scary and concerning for many," Marshall Supt. Jeremy Williams wrote in a letter to parents. "We encourage you to continue to watch your students for any signs of COVID. If your student begins to show symptoms, please bring them in to be tested right away."

Williams said the district has been following all state and federal COVID-19 guidelines and is providing crisis support to those who need it. The news comes just a few days after state health officials raised concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in school-age children.

"While COVID-related deaths in children are rare, they can occur even in otherwise healthy children," the state health department said in a statement confirming the child's death Monday.

Gov. Tim Walz also issued a statement offering his condolences to the loved ones of the child, who had no underlying health conditions.

"It is simply heartbreaking to hear that COVID-19 has taken the life of someone so young," Walz said. "My thoughts are with the Minnesota family grieving the loss of their beloved child. There is no grief more profound than the loss of family."

More than 56,000 kids age 14 and younger in Minnesota have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. More than 400 of those children have been hospitalized; 99 have been admitted to intensive care. Three children have now died from complications of the disease.

Minnesota's overall pandemic death toll sat at 7,079 as of Monday's update. South-central Minnesota's pandemic death toll remains at 233.

South-central Minnesota counties combined for 46 new COVID-19 cases Monday, a drop from Sunday's total.

The area counties combined for 81 new cases Sunday, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. It's been a relatively high total in the region for April so far, while Monday's total was relatively low. Mondays and Tuesdays often have the lowest case totals of the week due to reporting lags from the weekend.

Blue Earth County's 22 new cases were the most in the south-central region Monday. The only area county without at least one new case was Sibley County.

The full list of new cases by county includes:

* Blue Earth County — 22

* Martin County — 8

* Nicollet County — 5

* Brown County — 3

* Waseca County — 3

* Le Sueur County — 2

* Faribault County — 2

* Watonwan County — 1

Statewide, Monday's COVID-19 data shows stronger evidence that Minnesota's wave of active cases and hospitalizations may have crested.

Overall hospitalizations had been climbing significantly over the past few weeks, hovering at levels not seen since January. Monday's numbers, though, showed 613 people hospitalized with COVID-19, down significantly from last week.

The number of patients needing an intensive care bed is also starting to fall, from 202 reported Friday to 179 reported Monday.

Known, active cases came in at 15,340 in Monday's numbers — the lowest since April 1.

Active cases climbed above 20,000 earlier this month. Given the state's vaccination effort, officials said they didn't expect this wave would match the 50,000 active cases in 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 trend down after a recent upswing. The trend line Monday slipped just below the 5% threshold that experts find concerning.

While the numbers are improving, officials continue to emphasize the pandemic is not over.

Minnesota officials say they want more testing of middle and high school students because they're increasingly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in younger people, particularly those playing youth sports. State health and education officials Thursday posted updated guidance urging athletes, coaches, referees, volunteers and other youth sports participants to get tested weekly for COVID-19 — students not participating in sports or other group activities are still strongly encouraged to test every two weeks.

Although young people are less likely to feel the worst effects of the disease and end up hospitalized, experts worry they will spread it unknowingly to older relatives and members of other vulnerable populations. Those with the COVID-19 virus can spread it when they don't have symptoms.

Minnesota enters the last week of April having passed the milestone of 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to state residents since vaccinations started in December. That includes more than 2.4 million residents 16 and older with at least one vaccine dose, and more than 1.8 million Minnesotans who have completed their vaccinations, as of Monday's update.

It works out to about 41% of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and about 56% with at least one shot, including 86% of those 65 and older.

In south-central Minnesota, about 40.2% of the eligible population — 75,295 residents — are completely vaccinated. About 51.8% — 96,930 residents — have received at least one dose.

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