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More than 3 percent of one county has tested positive for coronavirus

Officials say numbers in Nobles County were driven by the workers and families of JBS USA processing plant in Worthington.

Officials say numbers in Nobles County were driven by the workers and families of JBS USA processing plant in Worthington. Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

As of Thursday, Minnesota had over 5,100 cases and just over 340 deaths from COVID-19. That鈥檚 about six deaths per every 100,000 people.

As seen in tracking data from the聽New York Times, the virus isn鈥檛 evenly distributed across the state. The most cases, by county, are in Hennepin, at just over 1,700. As are the most deaths: 225.

But Hennepin also has by far the most people, and is pretty far down the list for cases of coronavirus cases per capita. And its death rate is easily surpassed by counties like Wilkin, located in the middle of the state鈥檚 western edge, which with only three deaths (out of some 6,500 residents) claims the highest rate in Minnesota. That鈥檚 followed by Winona County (15 deaths, or 30 per 100,000 residents) Martin County (four deaths, or 20 per 100,000 residents) and then Hennepin.

The place with the absolute worst COVID-19 rate isn鈥檛 anywhere near the urban core. It鈥檚 down in Nobles County, in the southwest corner of the state.

Nobles, as of Thursday afternoon, had 742 people test positive for coronavirus鈥14 percent of the state鈥檚 total cases. Its population is not quite 22,000 people, which balloons that figure to a rate of 3,400 or so people per every 100,000, or 3.37 percent of the population. Most of those cases were picked up over the course of April鈥攁n alarmingly quick pace compared to the state鈥檚 overall trajectory.

Only one death in Nobles County has so far been blamed on COVID-19.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the spread was driven by the workers and families of the JBS USA processing plant in Worthington, which was forced to close after 100 of its employees tested positive.

鈥淲e basically went from zero tests to 700 positives in 10 days,鈥 Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said during his regular COVID-19 update on Thursday. 鈥淭he per capita infection rate in Nobles County approaches New York City, and that happened a week ago Sunday to today.鈥

This is on the heels of President Donald Trump鈥檚 Tuesday executive order calling for the reopening of all closed meat processing plants.

County Administrator Tom Johnson says there are no clear-cut answers. They take their orders from the Minnesota Department of Health. In the meantime, the county鈥檚 doing its best to provide food and lodging for people who can鈥檛 self-isolate at home, with the help of volunteers and staff. But despite the numbers, he doesn鈥檛 think they鈥檙e coping any differently than any other community.

鈥淚 think the stay-at-home order is appropriate,鈥 he says. 鈥淲e鈥檙e only going to beat this by staying together.鈥

On Thursday, as he extended the stay-at-home order through May 18, Walz estimated the peak of the outbreak in our state is now most likely to happen in late May or early June.