Minnesota has lost more than 8,000 lives to COVID-19, a disease that often leads to pneumonia and respiratory failure.

Another 18 deaths were reported Tuesday by state health officials, bringing the number of known pandemic-related deaths to 8,011.

The pace of deaths has slowed dramatically since the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines and a high uptake rate among the elderly population, which is most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications.

There are about seven deaths each day related to infection from the coronavirus. By comparison, about 60 to 70 people were dying each day during the large surge of cases last fall.

The Minnesota Department of Health also announced a three-day total of 6,352 new COVID-19 cases, for an average of about 2,117 cases per day. In early July, the health agency stopped reporting case counts on weekends, resulting in multiple days of cases being reported on Tuesdays.

The state's testing positivity rate has fallen to 6.8%, down from a recent high of 7.1%.

But the per capita case growth rate continues to increase and is 37.8 new infections per 100,000 population which is above the high-risk level of 10.

As of Monday, 791 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 complications, up from the 757 on Friday, setting a new high for 2021.

The state's hospitals have been stressed because of staffing shortages, COVID-19 cases and admissions related to other diseases and trauma. Of the state's 1,206 intensive care beds, 95% are occupied. About 92% of non-ICU beds are full.

Seventeen hospitals had more than 95% of their beds occupied, according to data filed with the federal government as of last Thursday.

This included several of the larger metro area hospitals, but also hospitals in Owatonna, Faribault, Cambridge, Buffalo and Paynesville.

More than 3.2 million Minnesotans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which represents 68% of those eligible to received the shot.

State officials said Tuesday that the Mall of American COVID-19 vaccination site will more than triple capacity and expand hours.

Beginning Thursday, the site will have enough vaccine to administer 500 doses per day, up from 150.

Hours will be expanded to 1-8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The site, at the Southeast Court on Level 2, is administering the Pfizer vaccine to eligible individuals 12 and older. Parent or guardian consent is required for those younger than 18.