Stock COVID 3

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

The Free Press

MANKATO — Area counties combined for seven new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the 26th straight day with fewer than 10 new cases in the south-central region.

Faribault County accounted for three of the seven new cases, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Waseca County had two, while Le Sueur and Sibley counties had one each.

No south-central counties had new COVID-19 deaths, but there were six more statewide. Minnesota’s pandemic death toll rose to 7,561.

Underscoring how low case counts have been lately, south-central Minnesota’s positivity rate remained at a record low over the last week. The rate of positive tests in area counties between June 16-23 held steady at 0.8%.

Positivity rates at or below 5% are considered encouraging. The region’s positivity rate hasn’t been above 2% since late May and hasn’t been above 5% since early May.

Three counties, Watonwan, Sibley and Martin, had zero new cases over the last week from a combined 826 tests, according to health department data. Overall the nine-county region combined for 25 new cases from 3,199 tests.

Blue Earth and Nicollet counties had similarly low positivity rates. Blue Earth Count’s rate decreased from 0.7% to 0.5% on 770 tests, while Nicollet County increased from 0.2% to 0.8% on 390 tests.

The only area county with a positivity rate above 1% over the last week was Faribault County, which came in at 4.1%. It was a rise from 1.1% during the prior week, with an increase from three new cases to 12 new cases driving the rate uptick.

Minnesota overall had a similarly low positivity rate as the south-central region. The statewide positivity rate dropped from 1% to 0.9%.

In other words, fewer than one out of every 100 tests came back positive for COVID-19 both statewide and in the south-central region over the last week. The dramatic drop in positivity rates in the late spring and early summer followed when vaccinations ramped up in Minnesota.

Since then, however, the vaccination pace has slowed. The south-central region remained at 58.9% of 16-and-older residents having at least first doses as of Thursday.

Area counties have about 56.2% of 16-and-older residents completely vaccinated. Statewide, about 66.5% of Minnesotans 16 and older have at least one dose and 62.7% are completely vaccinated.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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