By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As the state prepares to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds as early as next week, health officials report an additional 3,348 COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths.

In all, the state has seen 787,550 virus cases and 8,669 deaths since March of 2020; of the deaths reported Friday, 13 took place in a private residence.

At the same time, the seven-day average positivity rate has declined recently, from a high of 8.4% reported in mid-October to 7.1% as of last week. Daily new cases and hospitalizations have also been trending down, as the state is seeing roughly 38 new cases per 100,000 residents and 12.8 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents. Still, cases and hospitalizations are well into the “high risk” category determined by health officials.

As of Thursday afternoon there were 915 people in Minnesota hospitals with the virus, of which 212 were in the ICU. Bed capacity remains limited, as less than 2% of staffed ICU beds and less than 1% of staffed non-ICU beds are available in the metro area.

Meanwhile, the state has administered over 6.9 million vaccine doses, and 59.3% of Minnesotans are fully vaccinated. More than 374,000 booster shots have been administered state-wide.

Gov. Tim Walz said on Friday that first vaccine doses among 12- to 17-year-olds is up 40% since Oct. 18. Children in that age group who get a shot are eligible for a $200 Visa gift card until Nov. 30. Each week, a child who is fully vaccinated will have an opportunity to receive a $100,000 college scholarship.

Earlier this week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel endorsed the Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, moving the process forward for a full approval as early as next week.

State officials have laid out their plans for the authorization, as a network of more than 1,100 health providers – including pharmacies, pediatricians, state-run community clinics, schools, local public health agencies, and tribal health agencies – are prepared to oversee and administer vaccines. The state also says plans are underway to partner with school districts and charter schools to host vaccination clinics in school buildings.