Apr. 12—MANKATO — South-central Minnesota counties had a slight drop in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday.
Monday was the first day since April 5 with fewer than 70 confirmed cases in the area, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. The counties had 68 newly confirmed cases Monday.
The case total was still about double the amount from the previous Monday, continuing a stretch of relatively high counts so far in April.
Area counties had no new COVID-19 deaths reported. There were two confirmed statewide, however, raising Minnesota's pandemic death toll to 6,959.
Of the 68 new cases confirmed Monday, Blue Earth County's 28 were the most. Waseca County had 10, while all nine counties in the south-central region had at least one.
The full list of new cases by county includes:
Blue Earth County — 28
Waseca County — 10
Le Sueur County — 8
Nicollet County — 7
Brown County — 6
Sibley County — 5
Martin County — 2
Watonwan County — 1
Faribault County — 1
Statewide, Monday started with both hope and concern on the COVID-19 front.
Minnesota is close to having half the adult population with at least one vaccine shot. The state is also approaching 7,000 deaths tied to the pandemic. Both thresholds may be crossed this week.
About 47.3% of Minnesota adults have received at least one vaccine dose, including about 84% of residents age 65 and older, the state health department said Monday.
In south-central Minnesota, the percent of total residents — not just adults — with at least one vaccine dose is 37.4%. About 25.5% of all area residents have been completely inoculated.
But as vaccination numbers increase, COVID-19 case counts continue to rise, too.
The number of known, active cases has been trending upward over the past few weeks, with more than 18,000 as of Monday's report — marking more than three weeks with active daily counts above 10,000.
Hospitalizations have climbed significantly in the past few weeks to levels not seen since January, and deaths tied to the disease are trending up, too. Health officials say coronavirus variants circulating in Minnesota are driving those increases.
The state on Monday reported 651 people in Minnesota hospitals with COVID-19; 161 needed intensive care — the highest number of ICU patients since the first days of 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.
To date, the state has confirmed at least 1,600 cases of the U.K. strain. State epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said the variant is linked to five deaths here and likely responsible for the majority of the spread happening now.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said recently that while the increase in cases is concerning, the growing number of vaccinated people in Minnesota means the state likely won't see as steep a surge in cases of the scope seen in November and December.
The state has recorded 544,046 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including 1,994 posted Monday. 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.
Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola