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

The Free Press

MANKATO — A dozen newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in area counties contributed to a rise in the region’s positive test rate this week.

South-central Minnesota’s nine counties combined to have 2.6% of 2,882 tests result in positive cases between July 14-21, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. The previous week had a 2.2% positivity rate on 2,276 tests.

After the counties reached a record-low 0.8% positivity rate in late June, the rate has now risen for three straight weeks.

Rates at 5% or lower are considered encouraging indicators of how widespread the coronavirus is in an area. The 2.6% rate over the last week is a far cry from early April’s 7.1%, but it comes amid worries about the highly contagious delta variant gaining more of a foothold in the state.

“Our region saw its third straight weekly bump in cases and positivity this week despite higher testing,” stated Derek J. Wingert, a local data analyst with the COVID Tracking Project, in an email. “These recent increases are significant and are cause for vigilance as new, highly contagious variants spread, especially among the unvaccinated.”

State health officials have said the variant is now causing the majority of new infections. The vast majority of severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 in recent months occurred in people who weren’t vaccinated.

About half of all south-central Minnesota residents have at least one vaccine dose.

Minnesota had four more COVID-19 deaths confirmed statewide Thursday. The state’s pandemic death toll rose to 7,648.

The 12 new cases confirmed Thursday continued the region’s run of updates with counts in the double digits. Counties have now had six straight case updates in the double digits, after going from late May to early July with none.

Blue Earth County accounted for five of the new cases. Le Sueur and Waseca counties each had three, while Nicollet County had one.

For the region’s positivity rate, Watonwan and Waseca counties had the highest over the last week. Both counties had among the 16 highest rates in the state.

Watonwan County went from having zero new cases to five, raising its positivity rate to 4.5%. Waseca County’s rate rose from 2.7% to 4.1%.

Blue Earth and Nicollet counties had similar rates over the last week, but the former had a drop to get there and the latter had a rise. The rate rose from 1.8% to 2.7% in Nicollet County, while Blue Earth County had a drop from 3.2% to 2.6%.

The lowest positivity rate in the south-central region was in Brown County. No new cases this week resulted in a 0% rate, down from 0.9% during the prior week.

Overall, the region’s 2.6% positive test rate was again higher than Minnesota’s statewide percentage. Minnesota’s positivity rate rose from 1.9% to 2.3%.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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