Minnesota surpassed the 5,000 COVID-19 death threshold with 79 new deaths announced Thursday.

A total of 5,050 Minnesotans have lost their lives to the coronavirus.

The state has recorded more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in just 17 days. At the beginning of the pandemic in the state in March, it took 70 days before the first 1,000 people had died from the coronavirus.

Both November and December have set records for the highest number of COVID-19 deaths.

State health officials said that the high death counts were the result of a surge of new infections in November, when nearly 177,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Even as we see cases start to increase we don't see the resulting hospitalizations and deaths increase for a number of weeks," said state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann. "In December we are reaping the effects of the November high case counts."

Another 1,917 new infections were reported by the Minnesota Department of Health, bringing the state's total of known cases to 404,403.

Minnesota's hospitals are caring for 1,048 patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Of those, 238 are in intensive care units, down from 399 at the beginning of the month.

In the seven-county metro area, 6% of adult ICU beds are available.

Most people who become infected by the coronavirus experience mild or even no symptoms, although some can develop more serious symptoms weeks or months later.

People with underlying health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, sickle cell disease, dementia and other chronic diseases are at a greater risk for hospitalization.

Since the pandemic began, an estimated 381,269 of those infected are no longer considered to be a transmission risk and don't need to isolate.

Testing laboratories reported 51,675 diagnostic results to the Health Department, a one-day increase of 28,112.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192