Le Sueur County Courthouse campus

The COVID-19 pandemic has recorded its first death in Le Sueur County. On Tuesday, Le Sueur County Public Health announced that an individual in their 50s died after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

No other information about the victim is available. The case was one of 35 lab confirmed cases in Le Sueur County, as of May 18, and it was the first reported death. Of the 35 cases, at least 23 have recovered and no longer need isolation. Cases have been reported in people ranging from 9 years old to 86, with the average being 41-42 years.

The case count is now growing more rapidly across all of south central Minnesota.

The number of confirmed cases in Rice County has shot upward, now at 260, including two deaths. Steele County is next with 111 confirmed and no deaths, while Blue Earth County has 87 confirmed and no deaths. Le Sueur County has 35 confirmed and one death; Nicollet County 39 confirmed and four deaths; Waseca County 20 confirmed and no deaths; Goodhue County 34 confirmed and no deaths; Brown County 10 confirmed and two deaths; and Sibley County 10 confirmed and no deaths.

Public Health officials in Rice County noted that at least part of the recent spike in cases in the area can be attributed to a higher rate of testing. Area businesses who are screening employees each time they arrive for work is also contributing to the higher number of confirmed cases, officials said.

In Steele County, a business had a cluster of employees test positive for COVID-19, according to a recent release from Public Health.

Statewide, Minnesota’s COVID-19 toll climbed again Monday, as state health officials reported 731 Minnesotans have died from the disease, up 9 from Sunday; 488 people were currently hospitalized, with 229 in intensive care, counts that have stayed roughly stable over the past few days.

Deaths continue

It was the first day in two weeks that reported daily deaths came in at single digits. However, the total number of cases in the pandemic continued to rise, jumping to 16,372. The state agency also continued to report nine probable deaths in Minnesota from COVID-19. Those are cases where COVID-19 is listed on a death certificate but a positive test was not documented.

Congregate living facilities have been reported as the likely source of exposure for 20% of coronavirus cases in Minnesota. At least 16% of cases have likely come from communities with a confirmed case of COVID-19, while 14% have likely been contracted from communities with no reported cases. In 40% of statewide cases, the likely source of infection is unknown.

The Monday numbers came on the same day Minnesota’s stay-at-home order ended. Retailers are now able to reopen with limited capacity, and group gatherings of 10 or fewer people, including at places of worship, will be permitted once again.

Health officials say they’re watching several key metrics to gauge if the disease is accelerating as restrictions are lowered. Among them: the number of days it takes for cases to double, the amount of daily testing, the proportion of positive tests and the level of community spread that can’t be traced to specific contacts — an indication the disease might be more widespread.

State leaders said they hope Minnesotans continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding unnecessary travel.

“There absolutely is a need for vigilance. This is not going back to the way things were before the pandemic,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said last week.

Curbs continue on large group venues

Restrictions on restaurants, bars, theaters, bowling alleys and venues that attract large crowds will remain even as restrictions ease starting Monday.

The DFL governor won’t permit restaurants to legally resume dine-in service for now, keeping them takeout-only. He said he’s instructed his agencies to assemble a plan over the next week for a “limited and safe” reopening of bars, restaurants and other places of public accommodation June 1.

On Thursday, the Mall of America said it would begin a limited reopening of stores on June 1. Rosedale Center in Roseville announced similar plans to open stores on Monday and restaurants on June 1 following the government guidelines. Ridgedale Center and Burnsville Center are among other malls planning to reopen on Monday, along with Apache Mall in Rochester.

When they do come back, restaurants, bars and theaters are likely to face capacity limits. Walz also said he signed an executive order ensuring that people can raise safety concerns about their workplaces without discrimination or retaliation.

It’s a similar situation for hair salons and barber shops, gyms and other currently restricted activities that haven’t been able to serve customers since March. Salons and barbershops are allowed to sell products for curbside pickup but aren’t allowed to provide services in-shop.

On Friday, Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, said the restrictions on visitors to long-term care facilities would also continue after Monday.Reach Reporter Carson Hughes at 507-931-8575. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All Rights Reserved.

Reach Reporter Carson Hughes at 507-931-8575. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All Rights Reserved.

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