Apr. 6—MANKATO — Minnesota's latest COVID-19 update included two days' worth of data Tuesday, contributing to a large increase in newly confirmed cases within south-central Minnesota.
The coupling of data was partly due to the Minnesota Department of Health not updating numbers Sunday in observance of Easter. Tuesday's update included data collected on both Sunday and Monday.
It resulted in south-central Minnesota counties combining for 136 newly confirmed cases, a much higher total than recent daily numbers.
Tuesday's tally also came after a Monday with a lower than usual total. A technical issue on Saturday reportedly led to fewer cases being processed, which led to Monday's low number, according to the health department.
The issue and holiday delay didn't lead to a large uptick in newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths statewide, and south-central Minnesota had none Tuesday. There were four COVID-19 deaths confirmed statewide, raising Minnesota's pandemic toll to 6,889.
Of the 136 newly confirmed cases in area counties, Blue Earth County's 39 were the most. Nicollet County was a close second with 34.
All nine area counties had at least two new cases. The full list of new cases by county includes:
* Blue Earth County — 39
* Nicollet County — 34
* Waseca County — 16
* Brown County — 15
* Sibley County — 11
* Le Sueur County — 8
* Faribault County — 6
* Martin County — 5
* Watonwan County — 2
Statewide, Minnesota's most recent COVID-19 data shows it remaining in a pattern of hopeful increases in inoculations and worrisome growth in new cases and hospitalizations.
While officials have cautioned not to read too much into the past couple of days of data, they remain increasingly concerned that the disease is on the march down the wrong path.
"We're definitely not out of the woods yet," Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Tuesday, noting the seven-day positive test rate for the disease is back up at 6%. A 5% rate is a warning sign of growing spread.
Thanks to vaccinations, Minnesota likely won't see as severe a spike in cases as it saw in November and December — but the pandemic isn't over, Malcolm said.
The state's case rate per 100,000 people has been rising uninterrupted, she noted.
"We all need to pull together to reverse that trend," she said.
The newest COVID-19 metrics reinforce Malcolm's cautionary view.
The number of known, active cases has been trending upward over the past few weeks, with 15,679 active cases as of Tuesday's report — marking nearly three weeks 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 highly contagious U.K. COVID-19 variant, which state health officials suspect is driving the current upswing.
Hospitalization counts are also moving higher. Agency data showed 497 people with COVID-19 in Minnesota hospitals; 114 needed intensive care. Daily admissions to hospitals because of COVID-19 are trending at their highest levels since January.
Malcolm told reporters that COVID-19 bed use is up by 40% in the past 10 days and that a growing percentage of new cases are ending up in the hospital. The age of those needing hospitalizations has been skewing younger.
The average age of people hospitalized during the pandemic is 65, but it was 57 years old from March 23 to 29, Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state's epidemiologist, said Tuesday. The median age for deaths is 83 years old through the pandemic, but in March it was 78, she noted.
Officials have described the current situation 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.
Tuesday's data showed nearly 1.2 million Minnesotans are fully inoculated, while more than 1.8 million have received at least one dose, including about 83% of residents age 65 and older.
In south-central Minnesota, 51,586 residents — about 22.2% of the region's population — are fully inoculated. A total of 78,228 residents — 33.7% — have received at least one dose.
The health department reported about 52,000 more vaccinations statewide Tuesday. Minnesota expects to see its federal vaccine supply shipments jump over the next few weeks.
To help win that race, state and federal officials Monday unveiled plans to vaccinate as many as 100,000 Minnesotans over the next eight weeks at a site to be built at the state fairgrounds. The site will prioritize underserved communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola