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Minnesota's most recent COVID-19 figures are showing a trend that the majority of virus cases in the state are now happening outside of the 7-county Twin Cities metro.

The 2020 Census found that the counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington comprise 55.5% of the total population of Minnesota, yet areas outside of the metro have been seeing a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Here's a look at the breakdown of cases in the past 10 days:

  • Data reported Tues, Aug. 24 (for Sat-Mon, Aug. 21-23): 3,838 cases total; 1,850 in the metro. 48.2% from metro.
  • Data reported Weds, Aug. 25: 1,404 cases total; 758 in the metro. 54% from the metro.
  • Data reported Thurs, Aug. 26: 1,839 cases total, 886 cases in the metro. 48% from metro. 
  • Data reported Fri, Aug. 27: 1,912 cases total, 882 cases in the metro. 46.1% from metro.
  • Data reported Mon, Aug. 30: 1,918 cases total; 919 cases in the metro. 47.9% from metro.
  • Data reported Tues, Aug. 31 (for Sat-Mon Aug. 28-30): 3,882 cases total; 1,901 cases in the metro. 49% from metro.
  • Data reported Weds, Sept. 1: 1,436 cases total; 677 cases in the metro. 47.1% from metro.

Total cases since the pandemic started are higher on a numbers basis in more densely populated areas, though on a per capita basis, the Twin Cities (with the exception of Anoka County) have mostly seen a lower case rate than more rural parts of the state.

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Of the seven counties in the Twin Cities, only Anoka (68.8%) has a vaccination rate among people ages 12+ of less than 70%, while Washington, Hennepin and Dakota are the third-, fourth-, and fifth-highest vaccinated counties in the state (behind Olmsted and Cook).

Meanwhile, counties with lower vaccination rates have been seeing increasingly higher case rates over the past two months, as the more contagious delta variant took hold in Minnesota.

The figures released on Tuesday from over the weekend show some counties with lower vaccination rates post rising case numbers.

Stearns County, with a population of just over 158,000 and a 12+ vaccination rate of 53.7%, posted 135 new cases between Saturday and Monday.

By comparison Scott County, with a population of just over 145,000 and a 12+ vaccination rate of 74.7%, posted 95 new cases between Saturday and Monday.

Other low vaccinated counties that are posting disproportionately high new cases in recent weeks include Kandiyohi, which has a 56.8% 12+ vaccination rate, Hubbard (58.2%), Isanti (50.1%) and Mille Lacs (48.1%). 

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Epidemiologist says southeast MN has bore brunt of delta, but that may be changing

There is a notable outlier in the form of Olmsted County, home to the Mayo Clinic, which has the highest vaccination rate in the state at 83.4% of over-12s, yet is posting per-capita COVID numbers higher than those seen in most of the Twin Cities metro.

Bring Me The News spoke with Olmsted County epidemiologist Meaghan Sherden, who said there is no single reason for why this is, but likely a confluence of several.

One of those is that while Olmsted County is highly vaccinated, it is surrounded by counties that are in the 60-65% vaccinated range.

"We're just as affected by what happens in our region," Sherden said, noting that even during the pandemic, Rochester still has a large transient population that travel into the city from other lower-vaccinated counties for work.

State figures also show that southeastern Minnesota has so far bore the brunt of the delta variant, with case rates higher than any other region in the state. However, Sherden says there are now signs that cases are peaking in the area, which is not the case in other parts of Minnesota.

This, she says, mimics what was seen in the winter peak of 2020, where cases rose in southeastern Minnesota first before making their way north.

"It could be that delta has moved through our community a little bit faster than others and we're starting to see catch up in northern regions," she said.

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