An additional 507 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths were reported Wednesday by the Minnesota Health Department.

Confirmed case counts have generally been increasing since mid-June, when testing was finding about 300 to 400 cases each day.

So far the pandemic has claimed 1,552 lives and 47,961 people have been sickened.

With Minnesota now reporting a seven-day average daily case count of about 600 new infections, Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce Wednesday afternoon a mandate that face masks must be worn in stores, public buildings and other indoor gathering spots.

Public health officials have long recommended the use of face masks to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

"Data has shown that in areas and countries with mask mandates, it does increase the usage rate of masks," Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Monday.

"The mandate would serve to just reinforce the expectation that it is the norm to wear a mask in most circumstances," she said.

Minnesota's increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases was sparked in part by an increase in infections among young adults.

But now the state is seeing growth in infections among other age groups.

"What we are starting to see is more activity in all of our populations because of increased engagement with other people," said Kris Ehresmann, the state's infectious disease director.

While cases have been on the rise, hospitalizations have been relatively flat, but new admissions have been increasing in July. A total of 273 patients required hospital-level care for COVID-19 complications, a one-day increase of seven. Of those, 119 were in intensive care beds.

Three of the newly-reported deaths were among residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities. About 77% of the 1,552 deaths have been long-term care residents.

Most fatalities have been among those with underlying health conditions, including heart, lung and kidney disease.

A total of 12,233 COVID-19 diagnostic tests were reported to the state Tuesday, an increase of nearly 2,700 from the previous day.

Although the coronavirus can lead to death or hospitalization, most people have mild or no symptoms and recover without any medical intervention. Since the pandemic began in mid-March, 42,234 people no longer need to be isolated due to the illness.

Beltrami County has seen a large increase in cases over the past week, with an 86% increase in infections for a total of 115. Ehresmann said the outbreak there was linked to several mini-clusters.

"We are aware of what is happening in that area," she said Monday. "It is a combination of multiple things," including family gatherings and athletic events.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192