The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of 28 more Minnesotans with another 594 testing positive, state health officials said Friday.

Testing continues to ramp up with 4,553 patient samples run Thursday, pushing the number of known cases to 5,730.

“The more we test the more we are going to find,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said at Thursday’s media briefing.

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 stands at 371.

Nearly 80% of all deaths have been among residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities as of Thursday.

About 40% of the confirmed cases — 2,282 people — have since recovered.

Hospitalizations have gradually been increasing, with 369 occupying patient beds, including 118 who require intensive care.

With more testing, case counts in some counties have jumped dramatically, especially in some that have had outbreaks in food processing plants.

Nobles County, home to the JBS pork processing plant which has had an outbreak among employees, family members and community residents, has 866 cases, an increase of 235% since a week ago.

Two counties that had small numbers a week ago are now over 100, with Stearns having 435 cases and Kandiyohi at 135.

Kandiyohi is home to two Jennie-O turkey plants in Willmar that are both closed. In Stearns, there is a now-closed Jennie-O plant in Melrose, and Pilgrim’s Pride has a chicken plant in Cold Spring that is open despite several cases.

On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz extended the stay-at-home order another two weeks beyond the May 4 expiration date. Retail stores that had been ordered closed will be allowed to offer curbside pickup as long as they maintain social distancing guidelines, and they are encouraged to take personal precautions, such as wearing masks and gloves.

Walz hinted that more changes could be coming before the stay-at-home order expires on May 18, including allowing for more elective surgeries.


Staff writer Mike Hughlett contributed to this report.


Twitter: @GlennHowatt