Minnesota has passed another grim pandemic milestone as the state now counts more than 13,000 deaths connected with COVID-19.

The Minnesota Department of Health listed the figure Thursday in a weekly report that tallied 13,014 deaths overall, an increase of 36 fatalities since last week's data summary.

As the pandemic's death toll continues to mount, health officials urged caution as COVID-19 indicators over the past week showed small signs of increased hospitalizations in Minnesota, even as other readings suggested a small decline in virus activity.

Data updated Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the number of Minnesota counties listed at the high level for COVID-19 increased over the past week from nine to 22. All seven counties in the Twin Cities metro were listed at low level.

"While we continue to see small changes in cases and hospitalizations, Minnesota has remained at a relatively stable, though higher than we would like, level of COVID circulation in recent months," said Kathy Como-Sabetti, the Health Department's epidemiology section manager, in a statement. "The data does show that there is still a lot of virus circulating in the community."

Separately on Thursday, the CDC dropped the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person, saying people can instead wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day 5.

The changes are driven by a recognition that an estimated 95% of Americans 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected, the Associated Press reported.

The CDC reiterated that individuals should look at county-level measures when considering what actions they should take to prevent spread. Masks continue to be generally recommended only in areas where community transmission is deemed high as well as for people at high risk for severe illness.

"We urge Minnesotans to know their community levels, take steps like masking indoors when levels are elevated, stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and follow other public health recommendations like getting tested when appropriate and staying home when sick," Como-Sabetti said. "We still need to continue to use all of the tools available to prevent spread and reduce the impact of COVID-19."

In Minnesota, the seven-day average for ICU patients with COVID-19 increased from 36 for the week ending Aug. 2 to 47 for the week ending Aug. 9. The seven-day average for non-ICU patients with COVID-19 also increased during that time period.

For the summer months, however, the general trend for hospital use across the state looks relatively stable: According to the most recent Health Department report, hospitalizations remain lower than numbers reported over the winter months.

"The slight rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations is a reminder that the pandemic is not yet behind us, and its effects will be with us for the foreseeable future," the Minnesota Hospital Association said in a statement. "While COVID-19 hospitalizations have remained low throughout the summer, mitigating community transmission must remain a priority."

Health Department readings show the seven-day average for new cases in Minnesota declined from 1,469 the week ending July 29 to 1,447 the week ending Aug. 5.

Virus levels in wastewater across the Twin Cities for the week ending Aug. 1 were down 7% from the previous weekly reading, according to the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Paul.

The CDC said levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations were high enough to recommend indoor masking in the following counties: Beltrami; Big Stone; Cass; Cottonwood; Crow Wing; Grant; Hubbard; Jackson; Koochiching; Lincoln; Lyon; Nobles; Olmsted; Pine; Pipestone; Polk; Pope; Rock; St. Louis; Stevens; Traverse; and Wadena.