Stock COVID 3

The Minnesota Department of Health's testing lab handles samples of COVID-19.

The Associated PressThe Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — The Minnesota Department of Health reported Blue Earth County’s first COVID-19 death Wednesday.

The resident was between 60-69 years old, and no other details were released.

The death is the 12th linked to COVID-19 in south-central Minnesota since the pandemic began. Previously reported deaths include five in Martin County, three in Nicollet County, two in Brown County and one in Le Sueur County.

While Minnesota had been reporting fewer deaths in recent days, the state’s 29 new COVID-19 fatalities reported Wednesday marked the second-biggest jump during the pandemic. The total death toll now sits at 777.

Total newly confirmed cases increased by nine in south-central Minnesota counties, with Blue Earth County’s five being the most. Nicollet, Waseca, Watonwan and Sibley counties each had one new case.

Statewide cases increased by 645. Of the 17,670 total confirmed cases, 12,227 no longer need to be isolated.

While deaths, case counts and hospitalizations are still growing, there have been signs that the state’s strategy for curbing the pandemic is paying off despite the economic pain it’s triggered.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Tuesday noted that the time it now takes for case counts to double is stretching out longer — about 13 days currently — helping to make the spread of the disease more manageable.

Health officials say they’re watching several key metrics to gauge if the disease is accelerating as restrictions are lowered. Among them: the number of days it takes for cases to double, the amount of daily testing, the proportion of positive tests and the level of community spread that can’t be traced to specific contacts — an indication the disease might be more widespread.

The state continues to add investigators to contact those infected and work to reach others who might have had contact with them and might also be potentially infected.

While the numbers of positive tests and hot spots for the disease are spread across sectors and regions of Minnesota, more than 80 percent of those who’ve died from the disease were living in long-term care, and nearly all had underlying health problems. At least 34% of Minnesotans have at least one underlying health condition, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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