MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota health officials said Wednesday that rising hospitalizations due to the coronavirus are a concern, just a day before Gov. Tim Walz was to announce guidance for schools reopening in the fall.

Hospitalizations statewide have climbed back above 300, including 143 in intensive care, for the first time since late last month. Kris Ehresmann, the state health department’s director of infectious diseases, said during a press call that hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, causing Minnesota officials to expect that number to rise following an increase in cases in recent weeks.

“I think it’s just the ripple effect of the cases that we’ve been seeing earlier in the month and so that’s a concern,” Ehresmann said. “We started to see cases and we were still enjoying lower rates of hospitalizations and ICU use and so I think people thought that perhaps we shouldn’t be so concerned about the cases, but as we have feared we are seeing our hospitalizations begin to increase.”

State health officials reported 681 new confirmed cases of the virus on Wednesday, slightly below the 14-day average, and nine new deaths. Minnesota has seen an uptick in new daily cases in recent weeks — showing an increase in the 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate over the past two weeks — though not as steep as many other states.

Walz and other state officials toured Liberty Packaging in Brooklyn Park after a statewide mask mandate issued by the governor to help slow the spread of the virus went into effect over the weekend. The state plans to give away 4 million masks to businesses across the state for free to help comply with the executive order — which Walz said will require a 90% to 95% compliance rate to be effective in reducing the infection rate.

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