Minnesota’s lab-confirmed COVID-19 case count reached 7,851 as of Tuesday morning, fueled in part by outbreaks in the Worthington and St. Cloud areas that are both associated to some extent with food processing plants.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday reported another 617 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, a single-day high in the state for this pandemic, which is caused by a novel coronavirus. The state also reported another 27 deaths, bringing that total to 455.
Only Hennepin County has a higher case count in Minnesota, with 2,519. The count in Worthington and surrounding Nobles County has reached 1,069, due in large part to plant-wide testing of workers following the discovery of an outbreak in the JBS pork plant that was temporarily shut down.
Cases in Stearns County have reached 815, due in part to testing after the discovery of cases among workers at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O turkey plant in Melrose.
The growth in cases in Stearns is challenging the ability of state and county public health officials to keep up and track the spread of the outbreak. State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said this regional outbreak does seem to involve a higher level of community spread in St. Cloud and surrounding communities than occurred with the JBS outbreak in Worthington.
“Even if it initiated outside the plant (in Worthington), the plant became such a magnifying force, it amplified the spread of the disease,” Malcolm said. “It appears to be to a lesser degree so far in Stearns … It does appear to us that there is more widespread community transmission there earlier on in the event.”
Only five counties in Minnesota have yet to confirm cases of COVID-19. As of Tuesday morning, the state reported 434 Minnesotans needing hospital care for their COVID-19 infections, including 182 who needed intensive care. Both were the highest numbers reported so far in this pandemic.
While the coronavirus is highly infectious, roughly 80% of cases involve mild or no symptoms. Among all cases, 4,614 had recovered and were no longer required to isolate themselves to prevent the spread of the virus.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 deaths include 368 people who had been living in long-term care facilities, which have reported numerous outbreaks across the state. More than nine in 10 COVID-19 deaths in the state have involved residents of these facilities, or people with underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, compromised immune systems, and diseases of the heart, kidney or lungs.
Health officials have warned that people in good fitness remain at risk, though. Malcolm said a death reported this weekend involved an individual in the 40s age range who appeared to have no underlying health conditions.
“Just another painful lesson about how this disease affects people differently,” she said.