The Free Press and MPR News
MANKATO — Eight of the nine counties in south-central Minnesota had new COVID-19 cases confirmed Monday.
The 30 new cases continued an upward trend for the region over the last couple weeks. The percentage of positive tests doubled during that time frame after contact tracing identified clusters of cases among younger adults in the Mankato area.
Nicollet and Blue Earth counties accounted for half of the new cases.
The full list of new cases includes:
• Nicollet County — Eight
• Blue Earth County — Seven
• Watonwan County — Four
• Faribault County — Four
• Le Sueur County — Two
• Waseca County — Two
• Sibley County — Two
• Martin County — One
Positive cases continue to increase statewide, though the number of patients hospitalized and in intensive care in the state keeps declining.
Ten more people have died of complications from the coronavirus — bringing the state’s total deaths to 1,435. Minnesota has also seen an increase of 315 new positive cases.
Now, 35,861 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state. The number of patients still hospitalized in Minnesota decreased by 10 to 278, and a total of 140 patients are in intensive care.
Minnesota is now at its lowest level of hospitalization utilization since May 1.
Still, the state continues to see a “peak and valley” pattern in terms of new positive cases. State health officials said that the number of positive tests reported today is the result of transmission that happened two to three weeks ago — and they warned Minnesota to be prepared for the possibility that that number might rise.
The state’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has trended higher in recent days, with young adults being a major driver — people in their 20s now make up the largest age group of cases. On Monday, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said there are likely more than 200 positive cases in Mankato tied to the bar-hopping outbreak. All those sickened were in their 20s and had gone to bars the first weekend they were allowed to reopen.
COVID-19’s resurgence in Minnesota comes as many Sun Belt states have seen skyrocketing case counts and hospitalizations. However, the percentage of tests that come back positive fell Sunday in Minnesota — and has been largely flat over the past week. Hospitalization numbers also fell over the weekend, after a pause in the last week.
In a news conference Monday, Gov. Tim Walz announced Minnesota now has the capacity to test 20,000 Minnesotans for COVID-19 in a single day.
The announcement marks a milestone in the state’s “moonshot” fight against the coronavirus. In April, Walz set a goal of ramping up testing capacity to 20,000 diagnostic tests and 15,000 serology — or antibody — tests daily.
The goal, however, hasn’t resulted yet in that many tests-per-day being done. The highest daily total has been about 17,000.
Walz said the development puts the state in position to understand how prevalent the virus is in Minnesota — which will be the only way to control the virus until a vaccine is available.
The ability to do 20,000 tests daily “puts us in a position that many other states don’t have,” Malcolm said.
Dr. William Morice of Mayo Clinic Laboratories said the state’s partnership with the clinic and the University of Minnesota also relieves bottlenecks in the testing chain.
“Any health care system that needs to test people in their geography or in their reach, they can do that with confidence that if they get a surge in demand that the university and Mayo Clinic will be there to help them do that,” Morice said.
Walz also said he’s considering requiring people to wear masks in public to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Walz said that a mandate is “on the table,” adding that it would assist businesses that are struggling to enforce mask rules on their own, in addition to public health benefits.
“If you are for the economy opening up and for the state to take away some of the limitations on your businesses, the surest way to do that is to wear a mask,” the governor said.
The Minnesota Medical Association, which represents the state’s doctors, has urged that masks be mandatory statewide. Some Minnesota cities, including cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, have adopted their own requirements.
Walz gave no indication of when he’d arrive at a decision. He acknowledged that use of face coverings has become a political flashpoint.