Apr. 16—MANKATO — South-central Minnesota counties combined for more than 500 COVID-19 cases for the third straight week.
This week's total was 509 newly confirmed cases in the nine area counties, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
While remaining high, it was a slight 1.4% drop from the previous week's 516 cases.
The last three weeks, starting from March 27, had 517, 516 and 509 new cases. This week had five counties with fewer cases than the prior week and four counties with upticks.
The counties again had no new COVID-19 deaths. Six COVID-19 deaths statewide, however, raised Minnesota's pandemic death toll to 6,995.
Blue Earth County had the biggest uptick in new cases this week, rising from 144 to 176. The biggest drop was in Brown County, which went from 88 to 54 new cases.
A total of 72 newly confirmed cases Friday contributed to this week's total. Most days in April so far have had at least 70 new cases in the region.
The 21 new cases in Blue Earth County were the most in the region, followed by Nicollet County's 13.
All nine counties had at least two new cases. The full list of new cases by county includes:
* Blue Earth County — 21
* Nicollet County — 13
* Waseca County — 10
* Brown County — 8
* Le Sueur County — 6
* Martin County — 6
* Faribault County — 4
* Watonwan County — 2
* Sibley County — 2
Statewide, Minnesota remains in a cycle of hopeful and concerning news on COVID-19. Officials on Saturday will likely report more than half of the state's adults have received at least one vaccine dose, but also mark that the state has passed 7,000 deaths.
Health department calculations Friday show 49.8% of the state's adult population has received at least one vaccine dose, with more than one-third completely vaccinated. At the same time, known active cases are now at levels not seen since December.
The newest report shows 671 people in Minnesota hospitals with COVID-19 as of Thursday; 165 needed intensive care, staying near the highest number of ICU patients since early January.
Hospitalizations have climbed significantly in the past weeks and are hovering around levels not seen since early January. Health officials say coronavirus variants circulating in Minnesota are driving those increases.
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.
The number of known, active cases has been trending upward over the past weeks, with more than 20,000 as of Friday's report — the first time since December that active cases have crossed that threshold.
The state has recorded 552,117 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 2,299 posted Friday. About 95% of Minnesotans known to be infected with COVID-19 in the pandemic have recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated.
There are also signs the current wave may be ebbing. The percentage of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 has been basically flat over the past week, at about 6.1% after growing steadily in prior weeks.
The rate of growth for new cases also appears to be slowing. Thanks to vaccinations, officials don't believe Minnesota will see the kind of steep surge in cases seen in November and December, but that doesn't mean the worst of the wave is over.
"We are still in precarious territory," state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Thursday.
Regionally, all parts of Minnesota are in better shape than in late November and early December. The latest numbers, however, show cases creeping up across the state.
Friday's data showed more than 1.5 million Minnesotans fully inoculated while about 2.2 million have received at least one dose, including about 85% of residents age 65 and older. The agency reported about 66,000 more vaccinations.
At the current rate of vaccinations, 80% of Minnesotans 16 and older will have one dose by the end of May.
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