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The Free Press and MPR News

MANKATO — Blue Earth County will soon surpass 500 total COVID-19 cases, with 19 newly confirmed positives added to the tally Tuesday.

The new cases bring the county’s total to 494 since the pandemic began, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are also on the rise in the county, although the death toll has remained stable so far.

Statistics from Blue Earth County Public Health show a total of 19 residents with COVID-19 have been hospitalized since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations have increased by seven since June 16, around when the spike in Mankato area cases began.

South-central Minnesota had 42 new cases overall Tuesday. Every county in the region has had new cases in recent days — only Sibley County didn’t have new cases Tuesday.

The full list of new cases includes:

• Blue Earth County — 19

• Nicollet County — Five

• Le Sueur County — Five

• Watonwan County — Four

• Waseca County — Three

• Brown County — Three

• Martin County — Two

• Faribault County — One

The local case and hospitalization trends contrast with more encouraging statewide measures. Minnesota’s intensive care unit usage has trended down for weeks, and daily death tolls have remained in single-digits for the most part since late June.

The death toll rose by three Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,477 since the pandemic began. Intensive care cases (121) remained relatively flat at late-April levels even as overall current hospitalizations (267) rose from Monday. Hospitalizations that do not require intensive care have trended up the past two days.

Minnesotans in their 20s now make up the largest age group of confirmed cases — more than 8,400 since the pandemic began. The median age for cases has been dipping and is now just under 39 years old.

The newest counts come a day after Rochester and Mankato became the latest Minnesota cities to require mask-wearing in public indoor spaces. Rochester’s order takes effect Wednesday; Mankato’s on Friday.

Minneapolis, St. Paul and Edina have also mandated mask-wearing in the cities’ public spaces.

As for a statewide mask requirement, medical groups in Minnesota and the state health department said they are backing the measure and Gov. Tim Walz last week said he is also concerned enough about a potential outbreak that he’s considering a statewide mask order.

Minnesota Medical Association President Keith Stelter, a doctor at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, applauded mask ordinances in a statement.

“Until this happens statewide, we urge other cities and businesses to step up to protect the health of their communities,” he stated. “Wearing masks is an important and safe tool in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 along with maintaining social distancing, washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick and getting tested if you have symptoms.”

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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