Seven COVID-19 deaths were reported by Minnesota health authorities Wednesday along with 282 new infections with the novel coronavirus that causes the infectious disease.

The daily tallies by the Minnesota Department of Health bring the state's totals in the pandemic to 1,869 deaths and 81,868 lab-confirmed infections — including 75,055 people who have recovered to the point they are no longer considered infectious or required to isolate themselves.

The number of Minnesotans hospitalized for COVID-19 has been gradually declining over the past month amid improved oxygen management and medications that have improved outcomes and shortened length-of-stay. The state reported 263 hospitalized patients on Wednesday, including 137 who needed intensive care due to breathing problems or other complications from their infections.

Health officials have warned that hospitalizations and deaths could increase again in Minnesota if the spread of the virus continues to escalate across communities. The positivity rate of diagnostic testing has risen to 5.6% and the share of cases linked to unknown community spread is now 34% — an indication that the virus is spreading beyond the state's ability to track it.

College infections

Winona State University on Tuesday ordered a two-week quarantine on its campus due to the number of COVID-19 cases involving students and staff. State health officials reported substantial case numbers at Concordia College in Morehead, Minnesota State University Morehead, and Minnesota State University, Mankato.

"We're definitely watching colleges and universities," said Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director, who implored students to take precautions such as social distancing and mask-wearing during and after classes. Social media images have shown crowds of students on various campuses throughout Minnesota this fall.

"The transmission we are seeing is really focused on social activities outside of the learning setting," she said, "and not so much based on interactions on campus."

While 80% of COVID-19 deaths have involved people 70 and older, health officials are concerned that young adults could spread the virus to such higher-risk groups. All seven deaths reported Wednesday included people 60 or older. Four involved people in long-term care facilities or a behavioral health group home.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744