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Minnesota added 444 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 to its statewide tally on Tuesday, and six deaths from the viral respiratory illness.

The state has now seen 36,303 cases of COVID-19 and 1,441 deaths. The fatalities reported Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Health include two residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. All six of the deaths were people age 60 or older.

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While cases of COVID-19 are growing rapidly in some states, Minnesota has seen fluctuating trends in confirmed case counts of late.

Using a seven-day average to smooth out daily trends, the number of new cases added per day in Minnesota hasn’t risen above 400 since June 3, after peaking at 732 on May 24. But the seven-day average daily growth numbers have been creeping up since June 16. The raw number of deaths per day peaked on May 28, at 35.

Similarly, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state has been declining in recent weeks. On Tuesday there were 136 people getting intensive care in the hospital for it, and another 134 people in regular hospital beds. The last time both numbers were in the 200s was June 6.

At least 80% of cases of COVID-19 are classified as mild, because they don’t require hospitalization. As many as 5% of cases may require critical care in the hospital, including the most intensive form of care for COVID-related pneumonia, which is mechanical ventilation requiring insertion of a breathing tube.

Researchers still do not understand why some people have mild symptoms or none at all, while others are hit hard by the virus. Factors that increase a person’s likelihood of having severe disease include advanced age, living in a group-residential setting and underlying health conditions including obesity, diabetes, asthma and diseases of the lungs, heart, kidneys and immune system.

However, people can be contagious regardless of whether they have symptoms, and the virus can be transmitted before it’s reliably detectable with even the best testing available today. Although younger people are less likely to have severe health effects from COVID-19, they can transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus to other people as easily as anyone else.

As the number of diagnostic tests used to confirm cases of COVID-19 has been rising in Minnesota, the share of the tests coming back positive has been dropping.

In late April, when testing was reserved for health care workers and people with symptoms or known exposures, more than 15% of all diagnostic tests were coming back positive. That figure has dropped steadily ever since. According to data published Tuesday, less than 5% of tests given in Minnesota in the past week were positive, which has been true for all of June.

Nationally, 2.6 million people have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 126,000 people have died from it. Cases are rising quickly in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, among other states, national data show.

Joe Carlson • 612-673-4779