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The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — A Blue Earth County resident died of COVID-19, the 20th death linked to the illness in south-central Minnesota this month.

The resident was in their early 80s, according to the Minnesota Department of Health’s Wednesday update. It was among 50 virus deaths reported in the state.

South-central Minnesota’s pandemic death toll rose to 188, with about 63% of them confirmed in November, December or January.

Blue Earth County accounts for 33 of the nine-county region’s COVID deaths during the pandemic. It has the third most deaths in the region, behind Nicollet County’s 36 and Brown County’s 34.

When adjusted for population, however, Blue Earth County’s COVID death rate is the second lowest in the region. Only Sibley County has a lower rate of COVID deaths per 10,000 residents than Blue Earth County’s 4.9.

Area counties also combined for 69 new COVID cases Wednesday. The full list of new cases in area counties includes:

  • Blue Earth County — 18
  • Martin County — 12
  • Nicollet County — 11
  • Faribault County — 8
  • Brown County — 7
  • Waseca County — 5
  • Watonwan County — 5
  • Sibley County — 2
  • Le Sueur County — 1

Statewide, Minnesota’s newest COVID data show the state staying steady on a path of relatively moderate growth in new cases as hospital admissions recede. State officials, though, still believe another surge is likely in the coming weeks following the year-end holidays.

The health department on Wednesday reported 1,504 newly confirmed or probable cases of the disease.

The 50 deaths is a higher death count than over the past week, but the overall trend remains down after a December spike.

Some 665 people were in the hospital with COVID as of Tuesday, with 129 needing intensive care. Those counts have dropped by more than half over the past four weeks. The seven-day trend of new hospital admissions is down to levels not seen since late October.

Hospital admissions are now lower than Minnesota saw on Nov. 1 but still above their Oct. 1 level.

Even as they applaud the recent positive trends, health officials have been signaling that another upswing is expected. Wednesday’s data showed Minnesota’s count of active, confirmed cases ticking upward, although it’s still far lower than last month.

Overall, Minnesota’s COVID path remains hard to chart because of the reporting from those year-end holidays.

The cases reported Wednesday put Minnesota at 440,354 in the pandemic. Of those, about 95% have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated.

The newly reported deaths raised Minnesota’s toll to 5,774. Among those who’ve died, about 64% had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities; most had underlying health problems.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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