Three COVID-19 deaths of people in their 30s were reported Wednesday in Minnesota, reflecting a decline in the average age of fatalities in the pandemic.

The deaths of residents of Blue Earth and Ramsey counties were among 24 reported Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health, raising the state's COVID-19 toll to 8,354. While more than 85% of all COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have been seniors — including 15 reported Wednesday — the average age has been slowly declining amid a pandemic wave that was fueled this summer by a fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus.

Before July 1, 88% of the reported COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota were seniors. Since that time, 73% have been seniors.

State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann noted that all three of the people in their 30s who died of COVID-19 had underlying health conditions, which are common in severe coronavirus infections in younger Minnesotans. However, she described the underlying conditions as fairly common ones such as obesity.

"These were not medically fragile individuals," she said.

Ehresmann and state leaders have encouraged unvaccinated Minnesotans to seek shots against COVID-19. Studies have shown that the vaccines have lost some effectiveness at preventing infections in the delta variant era but remain strongly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

Sanford Health on Tuesday reported 211 COVID-19 patients in its hospital beds in the Dakotas and Minnesota, including 19 (or 9%) who had been fully vaccinated. Among the 48 receiving intensive care, only three (or 6%) were vaccinated.

Overall, Minnesota on Tuesday reported 990 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds, including 260 requiring intensive care. That is an increase from a low of 90 COVID-19 hospitalizations on June 14, after a decline in infections allowed the state to rescind indoor mask mandates and social distancing restrictions.

Hospital leaders are planning for a continued escalation of COVID-19 cases but hoping that predictive models are correct and that the latest coronavirus wave will peak later this month or in early November. An updated ensemble model by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday predicted little change in Minnesota's rate of coronavirus infections through the end of October.

More than 75% of eligible Minnesotans 12 and older have received at least first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC data, which include some doses provided at federal facilities that aren't recorded by the state.

However, state data show the vaccination rate declines by age — with more than 94% of seniors having received first doses compared with less than 60% of eligible teens 12 to 17.

Nearly 200,000 Minnesotans have received third doses of COVID-19 vaccine — either as recommended because of medical conditions that compromise their immune systems, or as part of a recommendation for third booster doses of the Pfizer version.

Minnesota has followed general guidance and recommended third Pfizer booster doses for seniors and people 50 or older with underlying health conditions. Boosters also can be provided to younger adults with similar health problems or occupational exposure risks to infection.

Boosters of the two-dose Moderna and single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still under consideration by federal authorities.