Nobles County in southern Minnesota has announced that its positive coronavirus cases will rise from 2 to 18 on Friday.
In a message to residents, Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson said that the county had not received any confirmed reports from the state since Monday, but that the situation changed Thursday when he was informed of 16 new cases.
"Due to the complexity of the testing and the chain of communication, unfortunately, we were just informed the state will be posting 16 new positive cases tomorrow for Nobles County," he wrote.
"We know the range in age is from 28 to 80 years old, but have no additional detail to share at this time."
The additional cases are expected to be reflected in the Minnesota Department of Health's latest statewide update at 11 a.m. on Friday.
Sanford Health told RadioWorks it has seen an increase in patients with COVID-19 symptoms in recent days, but that it was confident it has the testing capability and the personal protective equipment (PPE) to handle the cases and more to come.
Counties in southern Minnesota have proved so far to have some of the highest confirmed rates of COVID-19 on a per capita basis, with Martin comfortably having the highest rate at 197.1 per 100,000 residents, with Winona, Olmsted, Freeborn, Le Sueur and Mower counties also in the top 10 in Minnesota.
What may be a factor in these higher rates though is the Mayo Clinic's presence in southern and southeastern Minnesota, with the Rochester institution having a greater testing capacity than many other health systems.
An additional cause of concern for Nobles County is that it's home to a JBS Pork packing plant in Worthington.
Ricardo Lopez, of the Minnesota Reformer, reports he's been told that there's at least one case of COVID-19 among employees, with the company confirming it has had workers test positive for the virus, albeit not identifying any locations.
Meat packing plants have suddenly become a major cause of concern for the spread of the coronavirus following the situation that has unfolded at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, close to the Minnesota border, where 735 employees and their close contacts have tested positive.
At a media briefing on Wednesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said that he wants to test every worker at the state's food processing plants for the coronavirus as soon as possible, given how crucial they are for the food supply.