More than 150 people have been newly admitted to Minnesota hospitals for COVID-19 over the last three days, the busiest stretch of inpatient hospital activity since early June.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday reported 310 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, a net increase of 16 from Tuesday. Among hospitalized patients, 143 needed intensive care due to severe breathing or other complications from the infectious disease that is caused by a novel coronavirus.

The state on Wednesday also reported 681 newly confirmed infections and nine deaths, bringing totals for the pandemic to 52,947 known infections and 1,589 deaths.

One death involved someone in the 50 to 59 age range while the rest all involved people 70 or older. Seven involved residents of long-term care facilities. COVID-19 risks continue to be greater with age, as people 70 or older now represent 9% of all known cases but 80% of the state's deaths.

The number of hospitalizations is closely watched by health officials because it suggests a worsening toll of the pandemic. It also isn't as susceptible as total case numbers to changes in the amount of tests performed.

Minnesota's COVID-19 hospital admission rate had been dropping since May and had almost reached the state's target threshold of no more than 4 admissions per week per 100,000 people. That rate has been climbing since July 3, though.

The hospital admission rate is one of five indicators that state health officials use to assess their response to the pandemic and whether restrictions can be added or lifted. Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce his latest decision on the state's pandemic response Thursday and whether school classrooms can reopen to students this fall.

Increased diagnostic testing has contributed to rising case counts in Minnesota, which started to rise after the June 10 limited reopening of indoor bars, restaurants, fitness clubs and entertainment destinations. However, the positivity rate of diagnostic tests is increasing as well, suggesting a broader spread of the virus.

State health officials tracked multiple outbreaks to bars and young adults initially in June, but have seen more involving family and group gatherings since the Independence Day weekend.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744