Stock COVID 3

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

The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — There were more Minnesotans hospitalized with COVID-19 in intensive care units as of Wednesday than on any day over the last month.

The state’s hospitalization totals have been on the rise over the last week, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. ICU usage rose to 143 Wednesday, the most since June 28.

Blue Earth County has had a slight uptick in hospitalizations as well during the last week.

The county had four current COVID hospitalizations as of Tuesday, up one from last week. Two of the four are in ICUs, according to county public health data.

Along with the statewide rise in ICU hospitalizations, Minnesota’s hospitalizations outside ICUs rose from 156 Tuesday to 167 Wednesday. The figure was as high as 175 last week but lower for most of the month.

State health officials have been warning about more hospitalizations as new case totals climbed for much of July. Hospitalization and death trends typically lag behind case trends.

The state’s daily COVID death toll has remained in single digits for all but one day in July so far. Nine new deaths reported Wednesday, however, tied for the second most deadly day of the month.

Minnesota’s death toll since the pandemic began is now 1,589.

South-central Minnesota had eight counties with new cases in the health department’s latest update. All but Faribault County had new cases.

The full list of new cases in the region includes:

• Blue Earth County — Nine

• Nicollet County — Nine

• Le Sueur County — Three

• Brown County — Three

• Martin County — Three

• Waseca County — Two

• Watonwan County — Two

• Sibley County — Two

Ending the COVID-19 outbreak depends on individual Minnesotans acting responsibly to stem the spread, the state’s infectious disease director said Wednesday.

With every decision Minnesotans make now about masking or not masking, socially distancing or not, “you are contributing to the solution, or to the crisis,” Kris Ehresmann told reporters.

While public health leaders continue to work to manage the disease, “we cannot do this on our own,” she said. Success depends on Minnesotans doing the “right thing” in their behavior.

Given the massive outbreaks elsewhere in the United States, Minnesota does not want to be like “states that didn’t see the COVID train before it ran them over,” she said.

Ehresmann’s plea for personal responsibility came hours after the health department reported the latest rise in hospitalizations. While hospitalizations still remain far lower now than at the late-May peak, officials have been bracing Minnesotans in recent days to expect a surge following the climb in new confirmed cases. That appears to be happening.

“As we have feared, we are seeing our hospitalizations begin to increase, and I don’t think it’s just a blip,” Ehresmann said.

Current hospitalizations and ICU cases are two metrics closely watched by public health leaders as they try to manage the spread of the disease so it doesn’t overwhelm the care system.

Ehresmann also noted 83 new cases in long-term care facilities, a jump from the prior day — but most of the new infections were found in health care workers at those facilities, not residents. That’s especially worrisome because it indicates people are bringing in the disease and exposing vulnerable people.

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