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Daily COVID-19 update: Mower County reports 6th death; school district weighs changing learning model

Mower County reported its sixth COVID-19 death on Tuesday of a person between 85 and 89 years of age, according to the daily update from health officials. 

The death was one of five reported across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Other deaths were in Kandiyohi, Martin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties. 

Those who died ranged in age from early 60s to late 90s, and two resided in long-term care or assisted living facilities. 

The new deaths increased the state’s total deaths to 2,020, of which 1,449 resided in long-term care or assisted living facilities. 

Statewide, 817 new cases were reported Tuesday, increasing the state’s cumulative total to 98,447, of which 88,380 are no longer in isolation, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Most area counties continued to see lower numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

Freeborn County reported no new cases, and the county’s cumulative case count is at 546. Of that number, 24 are considered active cases, and two people are hospitalized. 

Freeborn County Public Health Director Sue Yost said during the Freeborn County Board of Commissioner workshop the county’s active cases have dropped significantly in the last week, down from a high of 72 active cases. 

She said the county has helped supply personal protective equipment at Good Samaritan Society in Albert Lea after an outbreak that resulted in three deaths and several cases among residents and staff. 

The county is also working with the school districts in the county as they decide whether to adjust their learning models. She said based on increased case numbers in the last few weeks, she thinks the county’s 14-day case rate will increase to 31 per 10,000 people on Thursday, which under that number the state recommends the high school shift to distance learning and the elementary school to hybrid learning. 

Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk said during the school board meeting Monday that the numbers were concerning for him because while the two-week rolling numbers are trending upward, the current numbers are trending downward. 

He said none of the students at the elementary level have tested positive for COVID-19, while two have at the middle school and the remainder have been at Albert Lea High School. 

There are currently four active cases in the district. 

Funk said he and the district’s COVID-19 team had a conversation with the Minnesota Department of Health about the numbers, and they advised them the numbers provide just one factor for the district to consider in their decision making and to work with local health officials on their plans.

He said the district will likely maintain its current model of education unless it sees a spike in cases at the elementary level. 

Across the area, Faribault and Steele counties on Tuesday reported no new cases, and Mower County reported two new cases and has now had 1,344 cases. Waseca County reported 33 new cases and has now had 722 cases.