Apr. 24—MANKATO — Nine area counties combined for 56 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Saturday, a smaller uptick than the prior day.
South-central Minnesota also had no newly confirmed deaths linked to the illness, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. There were eight more COVID-19 deaths statewide, though, raising Minnesota's pandemic death toll to 7,072.
The 56 new cases confirmed on Saturday followed Friday's total of 72.
Daily case counts have been jumping up and down with little pattern to speak of all week. Counts have been as high as the 90s and as low as the 30s, putting Saturday's total about in the middle.
Blue Earth County's 19 new cases were the most in the south-central region. Brown County had the second most with 10, while all nine area counties had at least one new case.
The full list of new cases by county includes:
* Blue Earth County — 19
* Brown County — 10
* Le Sueur County — 9
* Martin County — 6
* Nicollet County — 5
* Faribault County — 4
* Waseca County — 1
* Watonwan County — 1
* Sibley County — 1
Statewide, Minnesota's current COVID-19 outbreak continues to show signs of receding. Officials, though, continue to plead with the public to keep their guard up against spreading the disease, and they're keeping a close eye on rising case counts among teens and young adults.
State health department data show more than 1.7 million Minnesotans have completed their full vaccine series — two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — while more than 2.4 million have at least one dose.
That works out to nearly 40% of 16-and-older Minnesotans completely vaccinated and more than 54% with at least one shot, according to the state's calculations, including 86% of residents age 65 and older.
But averaged over the past week, the state is now administering fewer than 50,000 vaccine doses a day — the lowest that number has been since late March.
The state's efforts have been hampered recently by supply cuts, particularly in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which federal authorities paused last week as they investigated the possibility of rare side effects associated with the shot.
The pace may pick up after federal health officials on Friday lifted the pause on using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In south-central Minnesota, 73,224 residents — 39.1% of the eligible population — have completed their full vaccine series. A total of 95,972 residents — 51.2% — have received at least one dose.
Other key metrics like hospitalizations and deaths often continue to rise or stay high for a while even as active cases start to ebb. That's the case so far in this wave.
Overall hospitalizations have climbed significantly over the past few weeks and are hovering at levels not seen since January. Health officials say coronavirus variants circulating in Minnesota are driving the increases.
Friday's numbers showed 689 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals; 202 needed an intensive care bed — the highest daily ICU count since late December.
The age of those newly hospitalized is trending younger than earlier in the pandemic. The majority of people in the hospital now for COVID-19 are younger than 60.
Known, active cases came in at about 17,000 in Saturday's state health department report, lower than the prior day but still far above the 10,000 active cases seen a month ago. Active cases peaked this month above 20,000 a week ago.
Given the state's vaccination push, officials didn't expect this wave would match the 50,000 active cases seen in the late November surge. But they've been anxious about the growth of COVID-19 variants and Minnesotans' willingness to stay vigilant against the disease.
The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive continues to trend down after a recent upswing. But the statewide rate is still just above the 5% threshold that experts find concerning.
Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola