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Minnesota recorded 28 new deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday, marking the first time that the state has averaged more than one fatality per hour linked to the illness.

Minnesota has used testing to confirm 3,602 cases, including 156 new diagnoses on Sunday. Of those cases, 1,774 people — slightly less than half of the total — have recovered and no longer need to remain in isolation.

A total of 272 people have died in Minnesota after getting COVID-19. The 28 latest deaths happened between 4 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday, and were included in the state's daily report Sunday morning.

Pork-processing plants have proved to be hot spots of infection, as have congregate living facilities like nursing homes.

Minnesota already has more than 100 investigators doing intensive contract-tracing work to locate and isolate those who have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, but may need to add hundreds more as testing and confirmed cases ramp up in coming weeks.

Although at least 80% of people who get the virus have only mild symptoms, as many as 5 % of them may go on to require critical care in a hospital, including being intubated for a mechanical ventilator.

As of Sunday, there were 170 people in regular hospital beds with COVID-19, and another 115 receiving intensive care in the hospital.

Despite steadily increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, Minnesota is allowing as many as 100,000 private-sector employees to return to work on Monday, joining the 2.6 million Minnesotans who are working in critical jobs exempted from the orders to stay home from work.

It is not clear how many employers will have time to follow the requirement to develop and post and comprehensive safety plans before reopening on Monday. The order applies mainly to manufacturing, industrial and office jobs, and does not loosen existing restrictions on customer-facing retail jobs.

This is a developing story.

Joe Carlson • 612-673-4779