Gov. Tim Walz is expected later this week to announce next steps in response to a pandemic that has now caused 5,443 deaths in Minnesota and 423,688 diagnosed infections with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The totals include 13 deaths and 3,148 infections reported Monday by the state Department of Health.

Pandemic totals have declined sharply over the past month in Minnesota, even as a wave of COVID-19 that first emerged this fall in the Upper Midwest has radiated to the rest of the country.

Minnesota had the nation's highest new infection rate in the week ending Dec. 4, but dropped to 43rd in the week ending Dec. 25, according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The positivity rate of diagnostic testing dropped from a high of 15.5% on Nov. 10 to 5.1% on Dec. 22, but then increased to 5.8% on Dec. 26. The positivity rate — a key measure of viral spread — hasn't been below the state's caution threshold of 5% since Sept. 17.

State health officials will be closely watching for signs of increased viral transmission over the Christmas and New Year holiday weekends. The single-day count of infections on Monday was the highest since Dec. 13 — a possible sign of concern or a reflection of the somewhat irregular daily reporting during the holidays.

The state passed a testing milestone of sorts with more than 5.7 million diagnostic tests for COVID-19, exceeding Minnesota's total population of roughly 5.6 million people.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota also have declined since late November, though the state's progress has slowed in recent days. Minnesota hospitals had reported a peak of 1,864 patients with COVID-19 admitted to inpatient beds on Nov. 29, but that number dropped to 810 on Jan. 3.

The progress comes as some activities reopened Monday. Group fitness classes and amateur sports practices were allowed to resume, and swimming pools reopened at limited capacities.

However, bars and restaurants remained closed for indoor table service until Jan. 11. Restaurant leaders urged Walz to announce his next steps for the hard-hit industry early this week so they have time to prepare.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744