Seven deaths from COVID-19 were reported by Minnesota health authorities Thursday along with 697 newly lab-confirmed infections with the novel coronavirus that causes the infectious disease.

The daily counts by the Minnesota Department of Health brought totals in the pandemic to 1,685 deaths and 62,993 known infections — including 56,346 people who have recovered and are no longer considered infection risks.

Updated county data showed continued variations in the spread of the virus in Minnesota, with changing rates potentially influencing local decisionmaking on school reopenings and restrictions in long-term care facilities.

Southwestern Lincoln, Murray and Pipestone counties had sharp declines in their rates of new infections per 10,000 people in the two-week period ending Aug. 1.

Red Lake County saw its rate double to 32 cases per 10,000 people in that two-week period — pushing it into a new category in which the state recommends all distanced learning for its middle and high school students. New case rates in Hennepin and Ramsey counties were both above 20 — meaning a recommendation of blended in-class and online learning for all K-12 students.

The number of infections in Minnesota involving health care workers exceeded 7,000 for the first time Thursday, though that number was inflated by a recent change in the definition to include anyone working in health care facilities, regardless of whether they provide care to patients.

More than 4,700 of those workers were likely infected in their health care staff roles, according to state data, and at least 351 needed to be admitted to hospitals for treatment.

The state reported that 308 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized as of Thursday and that 154 needed intensive care due to breathing problems or other complications.

The seven deaths reported Thursday included a Washington County resident in the 50s age range and a Hennepin County resident in the 40s age range. The others involved Minnesotans 70 or older. More than 80% of all COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have been in this elderly age range. Four of the deaths reported Thursday involved residents of long-term care or assisted-living facilities.