Clusters of COVID-19 started to emerge in and around Minnesota on Saturday as the state closed out its deadliest week yet in the pandemic by reporting more than 100 new cases for a fourth consecutive day.
A senior living facility in Wayzata was relocating about three dozen residents after other residents and staff members became ill in the past week.
Across the border in North Dakota, state officials announced that an outbreak related to a major manufacturing plant in Grand Forks now includes 110 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including some involving workers from Minnesota.
Saturday’s newly confirmed illnesses in Minnesota included a tripling of cases in Nobles County, the site of an outbreak late last week at a pork processing plant in Worthington.
The Minnesota Department of Health announced 10 more deaths, bringing the seven-day total to 57 and the state death toll during the health crisis to 121. Confirmed cases now stand at 2,213 and span 74 of the state’s 87 counties.
The decision to relocate residents from Meridian Manor, a 50-bed assisted-living facility in Wayzata, came in consultation with state and local officials, the Health Department said in a statement to the Star Tribune. A majority of staff members and administrators also fell ill, the state said, and were unable to care for residents.
“While we do not have an exact number of confirmed cases in the facility at this time, we do know that five residents were sent to a nearby hospital because of their care needs, some residents are being relocated with family and others will be moved to a nearby long-term care facility,” the Health Department said. “Family members of the residents are being notified as to where they are being moved.”
In a statement later in the day, Meridian Manor said residents began testing positive for the novel coronavirus at the hospital on April 7. The findings prompted the facility to test all residents; as of Saturday, 18 of 55 had tested positive. On Friday, one resident died because of complications with COVID, the facility said.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Meridian Manor community, our residents and their families,” Torsten Hirche, president of the facility’s parent company, said in the statement.
Eighty-seven residents of long-term care facilities in Minnesota have died from COVID-19, accounting for more than two-thirds of the statewide death total.
As of April 11, Meridian Manor was not among the congregate care facilities identified by the Health Department as having at least one COVID-19 case. By Wednesday, it was among the dozens of facilities listed by the state, which is releasing names only for facilities with at least 10 residents.
Meridian Manor said in its statement Saturday that health officials directed the facility “to transition all residents not affected by COVID-19 to other providers while residents with COVID-19 continue to be treated in hospitals.”
Just before 2:30 p.m., two North Memorial Health Hospital ambulances were parked outside Meridian Manor, and masked workers with stretchers were taking patients from the facility to the waiting ambulances.
Meanwhile, in Worthington, the case tally for Nobles County, in the southwestern corner of the state, jumped from 12 on Friday to 36 on Saturday, the Health Department said. Union officials reported infections among workers at the JBS plant in Worthington on Friday, the latest example of a correlation between meatpacking plants and coronavirus hot spots.
In the Red River Valley, North Dakota health officials reported the state’s highest single-day surge of cases, nearly all of them stemming from an outbreak at the LM Wind Power Facility in Grand Forks.
Gov. Doug Burgum said Saturday that an additional 88 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in that cluster, bringing the number of known cases among the factory’s workers and their close contacts to 110. Only one of those cases has required hospitalization thus far.
The factory, which makes rotor blades for wind turbines and is owned by General Electric, closed on Tuesday night for two weeks of deep cleaning. It employs about 900 workers at the plant, including some who live in Minnesota.
After eight employees had tested positive earlier this past week, a rapid response team including members of the North Dakota National Guard tested 426 workers and others who had been in close contact with them on Thursday, said John Bernstrom, the city’s public information officer.
While officials were still awaiting results from about 50 tests, he said 88 came back positive, including eight among Minnesota residents.
Additional testing efforts are planned for next week. State officials also directed LM Wind Power employees to quarantine for 14 days.
COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus that surfaced in China late last year. Since the first case was reported in Minnesota in early March, a total of 561 people have been hospitalized.
As of Saturday, there were 111 patients in intensive care. State data suggest that one of the new patients is a 20-year-old, the youngest intensive-care patient right now.
Most patients with COVID-19 don’t need to be hospitalized. The illness usually causes mild or moderate sickness, the Health Department says, and does not require a clinic visit.
The median age for all cases is 54, and the median age for all those who have died is 84.
Staff writers Kavita Kumar, Marissa Evans and Chris Serres contributed to this report.