ST. PAUL — More Minnesota children are catching the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and state health officials say that’s yet another reason for those who can to get vaccinated.

About 18 percent of new COVID-19 infections are under the age of 20, said Jan Malcolm, state health commissioner. That’s a bit higher than the national average of 14 percent.

Cases among children 9 and younger have almost doubled in the last two months to just under 10 percent of all infections. Health officials say that’s likely due to the more contagious delta variant, which is now responsible for 95 percent of new infections.

Since March of 2020 more than 624,851 coronavirus infections have been diagnosed. More than 35,000 infections have been in children under 10 and about 80,000 in the 10 to 19 age group.

Minnesotans in their 20s remain the age group with the most cases with nearly 115,000 cases since the pandemic began.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Minnesota’s current weekly number of new infections overall is roughly five times higher than it was two months ago. Masks are now recommended in 82 of the state’s 87 counties because community transmission rates are so high.

Since the pandemic began about 1,100 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 230 have needed intensive care. Three have died.

Young people account for only about 3 percent of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, but there’s still a chance a child could develop severe disease.

“No parent wants their child to suffer needlessly,” Malcolm said. “We all need to work together to limit the transmission of this virus as much as we can.”

More than 70 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older have gotten at least one dose of vaccine, but children under 12 are not yet eligible to be inoculated. With the school year approaching, health officials are urging anyone who is not yet vaccinated to get the shot to help protect those who are not eligible.

Minnesota health officials also noted Friday that the state was ready to administer third follow-up vaccine doses to high-risk residents. The announcement comes after the Food and Drug Administration gave the OK for third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna shots for the immunocompromised.

Health officials cautioned residents not to seek out follow-up doses unless they truly have a health condition that merits one. Third doses were approved to ensure people with weakened immune systems have a potent immunological response.

It’s highly likely the vaccinated will eventually need boosters, but getting another shot early could impact efficacy, health officials say.

Minnesota added six more COVID-19 deaths Friday and 1,336 new infections were reported by the state Department of Health.

The latest fatalities ranged in age from their 50s to their 80s with all six residing in private homes. There have been 7,729 deaths with 4,533 in long-term care since the pandemic began.

Cases in long-term care are back on the rise, largely due to unvaccinated workers bringing infections in from the community, health officials said. There are 114 long-term care facilities with at least one case, up from 80 facilities with cases a week ago.

More than 90 percent of long-term care residents are vaccinated compared with less than 70 percent of staff, according to state and federal data.

Hospitalizations continue to rise, with 389 patients requiring care including 104 in critical condition. The last time this many hospital beds were occupied with COVID-19 patients was late May.

Minnesota has administered more than 6 million doses of vaccine and 3.2 million residents have gotten at least one shot.

Roughly 58 percent of the state population has gotten at least one dose of vaccine. Currently, vaccines are only approved for residents 12 and older.