Minnesota reported its lowest daily COVID-19 case count in 10 days Friday, with 556 new infections and four additional deaths.

The state had been averaging about 700 cases each day, reflecting a general increase that began in mid-June.

There are now 59,185 confirmed infections since the pandemic began in the state, with 1,640 deaths. One death was of a resident of a long-term care facility, while another was a group home resident. The other two lived in private homes.

Nearly 16,000 test results were reported to the state, an increase of 959 from the previous day.

Since July 4, more than 30% of confirmed cases have been attributed to general community spread, where the source of the infection can't be identified.

It is one of the factors that state health officials monitor to track the pandemic. Without an understanding of how one-third of all cases were passed on, it makes it difficult for them to target public health messages aimed at preventing new infections.

For the past several weeks, the Minnesota Department of Health has urged residents to wear masks, social distance and avoid large gatherings. The concern is that unchecked community spread will eventually seep into settings where medically vulnerable people congregate, such as long-term care facilities.

It can also pass from people who are less likely to become seriously ill, such as younger adults, to those with underlying health conditions, including heart, lung and kidney disease. That in turn could lead to more hospitalizations.

"Certainly the case growth is not quite as high as it was in late May," Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Wednesday. "We've seen ups and downs but the case growth over the past month or so has been pretty significant."

Since July 10, the number of people needing hospital care has gradually been increasing. However, a net decrease of 19 patients was reported Friday, with 300 people hospitalized. Of those, 155 are in intensive care, a one-day increase of two.

Some Minnesotans could be traveling to an annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., that beings Friday. The 10-day event has raised concerns that it could become a staging ground for COVID-19 infections.

"Certainly it is I think disappointing that the decision was made to go ahead with the event," Malcolm said. "It is a pretty ripe environment for further spread and folks bringing the virus back to their home communities."

The impacts of the rally, if any, won't be known for several weeks as it can take up to two weeks for the virus to incubate. Public health officials are most concerned about large gatherings where people have close contact for a sustained period of time.

Malcolm said anyone who attends the rally should watch for symptoms when they return and get tested if any develop. Symptoms include a fever, coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, as well as common symptoms that are often associated with a cold or the flu.

A total of 51,940 who have been sickened with COVID-19 are considered to be no longer at risk for spreading the disease and do not need to be isolated.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192