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The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — All nine south-central Minnesota counties had newly confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday.

The region combined for 30 new cases with Blue Earth County’s 12 being the most, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The full list of new cases in the region includes:

• Blue Earth County — 12

• Sibley County — Four

• Martin County — Four

• Nicollet County — Three

• Le Sueur County — Two

• Watonwan County — Two

• Waseca County — One

• Brown County — One

• Faribault County — One

South-central Minnesota had no new COVID deaths Monday, although the region’s pandemic death toll rose over the weekend.

Two Waseca County deaths confirmed Sunday raised the region’s total to 23 COVID fatalities over roughly the last month — since Aug. 12. The nine-county region had 28 total deaths linked to COVID over roughly the four months before then — April 9-Aug. 11.

Statewide, Minnesota’s COVID-19 data continue to show some common themes of hope and concern. Cases are climbing, with 643 new confirmed infections, but the count of people in the hospital continues to decline.

After averaging about 300 hospitalizations daily in August, totals have trended down so far in September. The total fell to 233 on Monday, the lowest point in more than two months.

The subset of patients needing intensive care came in at 135, relatively stable over the past three weeks. The count of people in the hospital but not in an ICU fell below 100 for the first time since mid-April.

Only three new COVID deaths were reported Monday, after the previous four days had 13, 9, 13 and 15 reported COVID deaths. Minnesota’s death toll in the pandemic is now 1,922 people.

The newest numbers come after Minnesota recorded more than 1,600 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 more deaths over the weekend, although new caseloads have been trending down since a modest spike in late August.

Of the 84,949 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota so far, about 92% have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated. Following a spike, Minnesota’s number of active, confirmed cases has fallen back to where it was in mid-August.

Despite the generally positive trends, health officials have warned community spread with no precisely known origin is growing in Minnesota, driven by informal get-togethers, weddings and other social events where people are not wearing masks, socially distancing or taking other precautions to stem the disease.

“It’s certainly no time to let down our guard,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Monday. “We just continue to be concerned about the degree of virus that’s prevalent all around the state” and the potential for it to grow.

Like their colleagues around the country, health authorities here are watching in the week ahead for any signs of a rise in infections tied to Labor Day weekend gatherings.

They’re asking parents to keep children at home when they’re sick, knowing how difficult that can be for many families, especially single-parent households. They’re also asking employers to be understanding.

Malcolm has compared the state’s current circumstance with COVID-19 to walking on the edge of a cliff. Hospitalizations are down and daily death counts are moderate, but new cases grew significantly for weeks, raising concerns that new cases now will create more severe health problems later.

Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, tapped the cliff analogy again Monday, saying the health department was “grateful that we haven’t fallen off, but the potential to go over the edge is still there.”

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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