By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota health officials reported Monday 3,223 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 more deaths. Meanwhile, the number of people battling the virus in ICU beds is the highest it’s been so far this year.

Per the Minnesota Department of Health’s latest update, the cumulative case count stands at 738,843 while the death toll has reached 8,320. Of the most recent deaths reported, one of the victims was in their late 30s and lived in northern Minnesota.

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The rates of hospitalization and case growth are still climbing, according to state data. The seven-day average for new cases per 100,000 residents is at 51.5, a figure not seen since late last year, when the state’s vaccination push was just getting underway.

The positivity rate is also still creeping up. The latest average over the last week puts it at 7.8%, well above what health officials consider “caution” territory and ever closer to the “high risk” benchmark, which stands at 10%.

In Minnesota hospitals, 915 people are battling COVID-19 as of late last week, with 241 patients in intensive care beds. Not since last December, in the midst of the largest spike the state has experienced since start of the pandemic, have numbers been that high.

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Meanwhile, there’s concern among health officials that staff members are exhausted from battling the virus over these last 19 months — and many are leaving the profession.

With case numbers rising, officials again are urging vaccination, especially among younger Minnesotans who are eligible and back in schools. According to state numbers, nearly 7 million doses have been administered in the state, including 171,000 booster shots. About 58% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, and 49% of 12- to 15-year-olds have received both Pfizer doses.

Last week, Pfizer submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration asking for the green light to administer vaccine doses to children aged 5 to 11. The company said research showed that younger children should receive a third of the dose that is currently given to the rest of the population.

Pfizer’s request comes as COVID cases on the rise in Minnesota schools. Roughly 7,000 coronavirus cases have been tied to schools since Labor Day, and the health department reported Thursday that an 11th school staff member had died due to the virus. It was the third recorded death of a school employee during this school year.

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