Twenty-four more COVID-19 deaths were reported Thursday in Minnesota, including 13 residents of long-term care facilities that have been prioritized for vaccine against the infectious disease.

Minnesota has recorded 6,343 COVID-19 deaths and 470,803 people who have tested positive for infections with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. That includes 907 infections reported on Thursday.

Signs of viral spread continued to improve in Minnesota, though, where the rate of diagnostic testing remained at 4% — below the state's 5% caution threshold. Minnesota hospitals reported that 320 inpatient beds were filled with COVID-19 patients on Wednesday, down from 394 at the beginning of the month, and from 1,864 during the peak of the latest pandemic wave on Nov. 29.

Vaccination numbers increased as well — with 599,218 people receiving at least the first of two doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the state, and 177,239 people completing the series. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are considered 95% effective when both doses are provided on schedule.

State health officials earlier this week said that the vaccination of nursing home residents was nearing completion and that most assisted-living facility residents should have received at least first doses by month's end. Infection numbers have declined over the past month in long-term care facilities, and health officials partly attribute that to progress in vaccination.

Roughly 42% of people who have at least received a first dose are senior citizens, a key risk group because COVID-19 severity increases with age.

On Wednesday, Minnesota reported a COVID-19 death in a child in the 5 to 9 age range whose infection exacerbated an existing congenital neurological disorder. However, only 11 of 167,495 known infections in people 29 or younger have resulted in death. The death rate of known COVID-19 cases escalates from 1.5% among Minnesotans in their 60s to 26% among those in their 90s.

Thursday's reported deaths included an Anoka County resident in the 35 to 39 age range. The rest from 14 counties across Minnesota were 70 or older.

Minnesota prioritized vaccine for roughly 500,000 health care workers and long-term care residents, but then moved to educators and all senior citizens.

Roughly 24,000 vaccine doses were diverted this week to provide to senior citizens at chain pharmacies operated by Thrifty White, Walgreens and Walmart. Appointments for those doses appeared largely filled on the companies' registration websites as of Thursday morning.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744