Minnesota's latest COVID-19 numbers suggest a slight increase in cases as well as more patients hospitalized with the infectious disease, though the figures don't represent a startling change from pandemic readings in recent weeks.

In a data release Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported a seven-day average of nearly 1,455 new cases per day as of July 29 — up from an average of nearly 1,419 new cases per day during the previous seven-day period.

Those readings are within the data lag period and therefore subject to change, according to a Health Department website that generally shows stable trends in COVID cases through mid-July.

As of Tuesday, hospitals across the state reported a seven-day average of 421 patients with COVID per day outside intensive care units, up from an average of 365 non-ICU patients the previous week. The seven-day average for ICU patients with COVID was down slightly over the period, dropping from 38 to 36.

The Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Paul is reporting that during the seven-day period ending July 25, virus levels in wastewater were up 5% compared with the previous week. The increase marked a reversal from the previous reporting period, when the plant saw an 8% decline in virus levels.

The highly transmissible BA.5 variant continued to account for a growing share of the viral load at the metro plant — 79% during the most recent week, compared with a previous reading of 70%.

Data from wastewater plants across the state, as reported by the University of Minnesota, painted a mixed picture. Viral levels generally were stable or declining across the northern, southeastern and south-central portions of the state, while levels were up significantly in central and southwestern Minnesota.

Where available, readings from wastewater treatment plants have become the preferred source of data on viral levels because so many people now use at-home COVID tests. Those results aren't included in the state's case data.

The number of Minnesota counties considered high risks for transmission has grown from seven to nine, according to data Thursday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC now recommends indoor masking in Beltrami, Big Stone, Clearwater, Fillmore, Martin, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pipestone and Rock counties.

All counties in the seven-county Twin Cities metro were rated Thursday as low risk. Last week, the CDC listed Hennepin as a moderate risk county.

Modeling from the Mayo Clinic projects a slight increase in cases across Minnesota over the next two weeks, from a current rate of 27.3 cases per 100,000 people to 30.1 cases per 100,000.

Mortality data released Thursday by the Health Department show a total of 12,978 COVID deaths in Minnesota, up 25 from last week's total.