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The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — A Le Sueur County resident died of COVID-19, the 240th fatality linked to the illness in south-central Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported the death Wednesday. The resident was between 90-94 years old.

Le Sueur County has had 24 COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic.

It has the second-lowest percentage of residents vaccinated among the nine south-central counties. About 50% of county residents 16 and older have at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 55.6% of the same demographic in the south-central region as a whole.

The death was among 15 more COVID-19 fatalities confirmed statewide Wednesday. Minnesota’s pandemic death toll rose to 7,325.

Seven area counties also combined for 28 new COVID-19 cases, a slight rise from the 25 on Tuesday. Wednesdays usually have higher case totals than Monday and Tuesdays due to reporting lags from the weekend.

Watonwan County’s seven new cases were the most in the region, followed by Blue Earth County’s six. Two area counties, Brown and Waseca, had no new cases.

The full list of new cases by county includes:

• Watonwan County — 7

• Blue Earth County — 6

• Le Sueur County — 4

• Sibley County — 3

• Faribault County — 3

• Martin County — 3 Nicollet County — 2

Statewide, Wednesday’s health department data offers more evidence that COVID-19 is in retreat after a spring surge. But vaccinations are only inching forward now, raising concerns that hundreds of thousands of Minnesota adults might choose to go unvaccinated.

That concern is overshadowing an overall positive pandemic picture. The latest numbers show new case counts below 700 a day for the past three days — the first time that’s happened since late February — while active case counts and hospitalizations are retreating.

As of Wednesday, the count of known, active COVID-19 cases came in at 7,000, the lowest level since March 9. Active cases have fallen by half over the past two weeks and are down nearly two-thirds from their most recent high of around 20,000 in mid-April.

There were 420 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota; 112 needed intensive care. Both figures continue to trend down from their April peaks. New hospital admissions have dropped significantly and are trending at six-week lows.

The state has recorded 596,186 total confirmed or probable cases so far in the pandemic, including the 658 posted Wednesday — the third consecutive day of fewer than 700 new daily cases.

While the overall trends are solid, officials are increasingly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in younger people. People in their 20s still make up the age bracket with the state’s largest number of confirmed cases — more than 110,000 since the pandemic began.

The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has also grown, with more than 48,000 15- to 19-year-olds known to be infected during the pandemic.

More than 2.7 million residents 16 and older now have at least one vaccine dose; more than 2.3 million have completed their vaccinations as of Wednesday’s update.

That works out to about 53.7% of the 16-and-older population completely vaccinated and 61.9% with at least one shot, including 88% of those 65 and older.

In south-central Minnesota, 94,229 residents 16 and older are completely vaccinated — 50.3% of the region’s population. — and 104,288 residents 16 and older have at least one shot.

— 55.7%.

The vaccination pace, however, has plummeted in recent weeks. The seven-day trend is running at about 34,000 shots daily, hovering at levels not seen since late February. Minnesota was averaging 60,000 shots a day at one point in mid-April.

Officials are not yet reporting vaccinations among newly eligible 12- to 15-year-olds, but they’ve reported about 18,000 new vaccinations the past few days of people with “unknown” age.

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