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The Free Press and MPR News

The nine-county region reported 262 new COVID-19 cases Saturday and a Nicollet County resident over the age of 95 died.

All area counties saw double-digit case increases, according information from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The number of cases in the region Saturday was lower than the 417 new cases reported Thursday and 333 cases on Friday.

Statewide there were another 51 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, pushing the state’s pandemic death toll past 3,200.

But at the end of a grim week in a difficult month, there was a glimmer of hope: Saturday’s update from the state Health Department marked the first time since Oct. 26 that the rolling weekly average of newly confirmed cases went down.

That number was 7,063 cases a day as of Friday’s update; on Saturday it dropped to 6,715 — with no correlating drop in testing volume.

It could be evidence that the state has cleared a peak in the outbreak — but it could also just be a momentary blip in the numbers, especially if people go against health experts’ pleas to call off Thanksgiving gatherings.

Despite the encouraging signs in case numbers, current conditions remain severe across the state. The trend lines for deaths and hospitalizations continue to climb.

More than 1,700 people are in Minnesota hospitals — more than doubling since Nov. 1 — with about 20 percent needing intensive care. The hospital admissions trend hit a new high Saturday, with the state averaging 261 new COVID-19 patients per day over the prior seven days.

Active, confirmed cases of the disease dropped back below 50,000 on Saturday, after reaching that mark on Friday for the first time in the pandemic. That’s as the state reported that more than 9,000 additional people with COVID-19 had recovered to the point where they no longer need to be isolated

New case numbers for area counties:

• Blue Earth County — 73

• Brown County — 44

• Faribault County — 5

• Le Sueur County — 36

• Nicollet County — 22

• Martin County — 26

• Sibley County — 16

• Waseca County — 30

• Watonwan County — 10

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