By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Health officials on Thursday reported a seven-day average positivity rate of 14.6% as of the end of December, a figure not seen since the thick of the fall 2020 wave of COVID-19.

At the peak of the fall 2020 wave, the seven-day average positivity rate hit 14.8%; second to the 15.5% positivity rate reported in late April of 2020. Any data point above 10% is considered “high risk.” Daily new cases per 100,000 residents are also on the rise, hitting 82.4 as of Dec. 29.

Credit: Minnesota Department of Health

On Thursday, the health department reported 6,936 new cases of the virus and 62 deaths.

The rise in cases due to the Omicron variant prompted Gov. Tim Walz to open three new testing sites, and spurred the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul to reinstitute a mask mandate for all businesses starting Thursday at 5 p.m.

A new testing site will be open and operational in Anoka on Friday, and another  in Cottage Grove will open on Jan. 13. An additional site will also open in North Branch by the end of next week, Walz said. Click here to see the state’s testing sites.

Walz also announced Thursday that the community testing site at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul has 50% more testing capacity due to National Guard support. Walz has also directed 1.8 million more rapid tests to schools and 150,000 tests to reach diverse communities through local organizations. Still, officials warn that availability will be limited, as more Minnesotans will be requesting tests in the coming weeks.

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Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been 1,056,236 cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, including 17,505 reinfections. A total of 10,733 people have died. Of the deaths announced on Thursday, 33 were from December, and 27 took place after the new year. One person was experiencing homelesseness.

In hospitals, there were 1,197 Minnesotans in non-ICU beds on Wednesday afternoon, and an additional 272 in intensive care. Staffed ICU bed availability for adults is in the single digits statewide.

Credit: Minnesota Department of Health

Meanwhile, state health data shows that 72.2% of eligible Minnesotans have received their first vaccine dose. Over 8.7 million vaccines have been administered, along with more than 1.7 million booster shots. Roughly half of those who have completed the vaccine series have also been boosted.

Following approval from the Center for Disease Control on Wednesday, children between the ages of 12 and 15 can now get a Pfizer booster shot.