Nobles County surges to 258 COVID-19 cases Friday, 2nd most in Minnesota

The expanse of JBS pork processing plant sits at the northeast corner of Worthington, Minn., September 4, 2019. (Photo by Courtney Perry/For the Washington Post) ( Courtney Perry/For the Washington Post/Getty Images )

Nobles County, home to the JBS pork plant in Worthington, surged to 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Friday, the second highest number of cases of any county in the state. 

Nobles County has the 45th largest population of Minnesota’s 87 counties. With an estimated population of 22,000, Nobles County has the biggest COVID-19 outbreak per capita in Minnesota. 

By comparison, Hennepin County has nearly five times the number of cases of Nobles County—1,200—but 58 times as big a population. 

One death attributed to the coronavirus has been reported in Nobles County. 

Last week, state health officials began investigating the COVID-19 outbreak at the JBS pork plant and in the Worthington area. 

Gov. Tim Walz said some of the COVID-19 cases in the Worthington area are family members of workers at the Smithfield Foods plant across the border in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which has become a hot spot for infections. The Smithfield Foods plant closed indefinitely on April 12 after hundreds of workers tested positive for the coronavirus. 

JBS USA has indefinitely closed its pork production facility in Worthington due to the outbreak at the plant. The Worthington plant is the largest pork production facility in the state, processing 20,000 hogs per day. 

The Minnesota Department of Health is offering all of the plant’s 2,000 workers a test for COVID-19.