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A trend of spiking COVID-19 cases in McLeod County continued into this week as state data Tuesday, April 27, showed 3,979 confirmed diagnoses since the pandemic began.

McLeod County Health and Human Services Director Berit Spors told McLeod County Board members last week data showed "quite an increase from what we have been seeing."

"We are seeing an increase definitely in the school-age kids," she added. "A number of the schools in the county have changed learning models to accommodate."

The most recent 14-day case rate, which is announced each Thursday by the state, shows 56.94 cases per 10,000 McLeod County residents. The two-week data reflects information from two weeks prior but shows a steady trend upwards. Six weeks prior, the rate was 13.96. That rate doubled over the next few weeks and continued to climb.

For comparison, the largest spike in McLeod County was late last year, when the 14-day rate was more than 100 for nearly two months before beginning to drop in December.

Minnesota Department of Health maintains a list of schools with five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the most recent two-week reporting period. Hutchinson Middle School, Park Elementary and Hutchinson High School were on the most recent list.

In a press release, McLeod County Health and Human Services asked residents to remember to practice social distancing and to continue to wash their hands and wear a mask. Residents who feel sick should stay home, and be aware there may be variants of COVID-19, as is often the case with viruses.

"Variants are concerning because they are more contagious," the press release said. "Because variants can spread more easily, it is important to get tested. Families with school-age children returning to in-person learning should get tested every two weeks. Kids involved in sports or after-school activities should get tested once a week."

Saliva testing is still available at the Hutchinson Armory noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Appointments can be scheduled at mncovidtestingappt.as.me/schedule.php.

Spors said that compared to past months, vaccine supply to the county has been favorable, as have been registrations for vaccines. Should anyone cancel an appointment for any reason, such as receiving a vaccine elsewhere, a waiting list allows appointments to be filled quickly. The county continues to meet the goal of using 90% of vaccines within 72 hours of receiving them. As of this past week, it had conducted 35 vaccination clinics.

"We have plenty of doses," Spors said.

For more information regarding vaccine registration, visit co.mcleod.mn.us/covid_19.php.

State data updated this past Friday showed that in McLeod County, 11,024 people have completed a vaccine series — about 30% of the county's population. Among residents age 65 and older, 82.8% have had at least one dose of the vaccine.