Kandiyohi County in beginning stages of regional COVID-19 spread

Regional COVID-19 spread is in the beginning stages in Kandiyohi County and some surrounding counties. Medical experts do not believe the peak of COVID-19 is here yet.

Korko Htoo, a Karen medical interpreter, speaks with another intrepreter while wearing personal protective equipment at the drive-through COVID-19 testing site for Jennie-O Turkey Store employees Thursday in Willmar. Htoo is helping to translate Karen to English for those seeking tests. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — While the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Kandiyohi County continues to rise, county officials said they are working on contact tracing and providing education for self-isolation in anticipation of a surge in deaths, according to a Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services news release.

Kandiyohi County COVID-19 cases have increased to 238 with neighboring Stearns County at 1,161 confirmed cases as of Thursday's report by the Minnesota Department of Healt h. Meeker County has 18 cases while most surrounding counties have remained in the single digits.

While Kandiyohi County has just one reported death, Dr. Ken Flowe, physician vice president for acute care and emergency physician with Carris Health, said that surges in deaths are typically more than a week later than surges in cases.

Flowe in the news release issued Thursday said Kandiyohi County draws in both employees and customers within the region and data show that the community is in the beginning stages of a regional spread of the virus.

“We don’t believe the peak in cases has been reached and there is no confidence that the case count is slowing down,” Flowe said.


The county recorded its first confirmed case in late March but numbers have continuously increased. An outbreak among Jennie-O Turkey Store employees in late April led the company to cease meat processing at its two Willmar plants. One plant reopened Thursday with a small group of employees, and other employees are being tested as the company hopes to ramp up production at both Willmar plants on Monday.

Jennie Lippert, Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services director, told the County Board earlier this week that Jennie-O Turkey Store is not the main cause of the county's case growth. The spike in cases within the county coincided with the discovery of the virus among those employees, but she said Tuesday that the virus is spreading throughout the community and affecting many people who have no association with Jennie-O.

Kandiyohi County health officials are urging residents to continue to stay home, practice social distancing and continue good hand washing.

Those health officials have been working with the Minnesota Department of Health in contact tracing, which includes notifying individuals who have tested positive and those who have been in close contact to that person.

Local public health nurses in the county are also working with those notified that they should self-isolate to ensure they have the resources they need to remain safely in their home.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain and in areas where there is high community transmission.

Minnesota now has 9,365 positive cases, an increase of 786. Out of those positive cases, 1,205 are health care workers.

There were 23 reported deaths in Minnesota during the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 508. Most of the deaths, 407, have occurred in long-term care or assisted living facilities. Approximately 82% of the fatalities were 70 years or older. The median age of those who have died from COVID-19 is 83.


There are 435 COVID patients currently in hospitals with 182 of them being treated in ICUs.

Minnesota Department of Health is also reporting that 5,308 of the state's reported positive cases no longer need to be isolated. Subtracting the 508 deaths that are included in that number, 4,800 people who tested positive are no longer in isolation.

The state has currently completed nearly 97,500 tests.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or at least two of the following symptoms: chills, shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may appear up to two weeks after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC.

Some people with COVID-19 don't display any symptoms.

If you need to seek medical care, call the Carris Health Nurse Line and you will be directed to the correct course of care.

The Willmar Nurse Line is 320-441-5361, answered from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The CentraCare Connect line at 320-200-3200 is answered 24/7.


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Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at
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