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The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — South-central Minnesota’s deadly month for COVID-19 continued Tuesday with three more deaths confirmed in area counties.

The fatalities include the first officially confirmed COVID death in Faribault County, a resident in their early 60s. In addition, a Le Sueur County resident in their early 80s and a Waseca County resident in their early 70s also died of COVID, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

November has been the nine-county region’s most deadly month during the pandemic. Of the 94 confirmed COVID deaths in south-central Minnesota, 25 occurred this month.

The uptick in COVID deaths followed weeks of skyrocketing new case counts and hospitalizations. Tuesday’s new case count was relatively low for area counties, although Monday and Tuesday often have lower totals due to reporting lags from the weekend.

They combined for 220 total new cases, according to the health department. The full list of new cases in area counties includes:

• Blue Earth County — 60

• Brown County — 33

• Le Sueur County — 27

• Martin County — 24

• Waseca County — 22

• Nicollet County — 16

• Watonwan County — 13

• Faribault County — 13

• Sibley County — 12

Statewide, the health department reported 6,423 newly confirmed or probable cases of the disease and 38 more deaths. More than 1,800 people are in Minnesota hospitals, including more than 350 needing intensive care. The numbers have leaped since Nov. 1.

Tuesday’s hospital admissions for COVID-19 were the second-highest daily count in the pandemic. While the trend line has been flat the past two days, officials continue to brace Minnesotans to expect more hospitalizations and deaths.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Tuesday afternoon tamped down hopes that the current data pointed to a consistent improvement in conditions, and she noted hospital admissions remain high.

“We would not consider that we have any sort of a reliable trend just yet,” Malcolm told reporters.

“While we’ve certainly been pleased to see somewhat lower case counts in recent days, we think that this might be another of those patterns that we’ve seen earlier in the epidemic. Possibly we are in a trough now between waves and do not necessarily think that what we’ve seen in recent days represents the downside of a peak.”

Mayo Clinic Health System’s southwest Minnesota region — including hospitals in Mankato, Waseca, St. James, Fairmont and New Prague — had 42 COVID patients hospitalized with 10 in intensive care units as of midnight Tuesday. The latest figures came from Dr. Amy Williams, executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, during a media briefing.

“Bottom line, all the hospitals are very very busy,” she said. “The situation continues to be concerning with the surge.”

Health authorities remain concerned about another possible hospitalization jump in a few weeks following Thanksgiving holiday gatherings where family members and friends without symptoms may unknowingly spread the virus. Williams urged people to limit their Thanksgiving gatherings to their own households along with wearing masks, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene.

“We’re all planning and ready for a surge that we anticipate two weeks after Thanksgiving after all of the gatherings and all of the traveling,” she said.

The deaths reported Tuesday raised Minnesota’s toll to 3,303.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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