Minnesota reported another 11 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday along with 2,736 infections with the novel coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease.

The daily figures bring totals in the pandemic to 6,989 deaths and 549,830 known infections in Minnesota, which is encountering a third wave of COVID-19 activity despite continued vaccination progress.

State health officials have set a target of vaccinating 80% of eligible people 16 and older in order to achieve a level of herd immunity that will stifle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As of Thursday, nearly 2.2 million eligible people had received vaccine — 49% of the eligible population — and nearly 1.5 million had completed the one- or two-dose series.

The positivity rate of COVID-19 diagnostic testing is 7%, but growth in that key state benchmark of viral activity has slowed a bit. The number of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota hospital inpatient beds also rose slightly on Wednesday to 699.

National models disagree on whether the current level of pandemic activity is cresting in Minnesota, partly due to vaccination progress, or whether it will increase due to the continued spread of more infectious variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Health officials continue to encourage mask-wearing, social distancing and staying home when sick to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota, even as some statewide restrictions are eased. The state on Wednesday switched from a work-from-home order for applicable businesses to a recommendation only.

Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy said there are many reasons for concern despite the vaccination progress. People are only fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving their finals doses and only one-fifth of Minnesota's population meets that definition right now.

"There are still a lot of susceptible people out there," he said.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744