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The Free Press and MPR News

After trending downward throughout the week, an uptick in COVID-19 cases was reported across south-central Minnesota Saturday. The increase was fueled by a spike in Waseca County.

The spike is due to a delay in state reporting of prison cases, according to an announcement from the Waseca County Department of Public Health.

The prison currently has 73 active cases among inmates and three among staff, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The low-security prison has around 600 inmates.

Waseca County has now had 390 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. So far in September alone the county has had 120 new cases.

Rising cases have prompted school districts within the county to change to remote learning for their secondary students. For Waseca Public Schools, the shift also was prompted by known cases among students — four students as of when district leaders made the decision Thursday. Another 70 students and seven staff were in quarantine.

New cases reported Saturday were in the single digits for most other area counties:

• Blue Earth: 11

• Watonwan: 8

• Martin: 5

• Le Sueur: 4

• Faribault: 3

• Nicollet: 2

• Sibley: 2

• Brown: 1

No new deaths occurred in the region. Nine deaths were reported across the state; all were age 70 or older and seven lived in a care facility.

A sharp increase in new cases was reported across the state Saturday, ending what had been several days of below-average case counts.

The 929 additional cases was more than double the average daily increase over the previous four days. The number of test results reported Saturday increased only slightly from the previous day.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota dropped slightly; the number of those patients being treated in ICUs increased by one.

The low case counts over the previous few days had offered some potentially hopeful signs about COVID-19 trends in Minnesota, as officials watch in the coming weeks for a possible uptick in cases tied to Labor Day weekend gatherings.

It remains to be seen whether Saturday’s high case count is an outlier.

— or if the low case counts earlier in the week were only a short-term reduction, perhaps due to reduced testing over the holiday weekend.

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