The Times has been keeping a trove of day-to-day coronavirus stats, and has put together a few charts in an attempt to forecast where the next hotspots might be. We’ve already had problem spots in both Nobles and Stearns County, and the state’s densely populated urban center is always experiencing a high case rate.

This week, we turn our eyes to the Faribault-Northfield area. On Wednesday, it was on the top of the Times’ list of highest average daily rate of cases. In the previous two weeks, the mini-region in Rice County had racked up 236 new cases – an average daily growth rate of 13 percent. That meant the number of positive tests was doubling roughly every six days.

Faribault-Northfield was followed by the growth rates of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina (11 percent); Yuma, Arizona (11 percent); Amarillo, Texas (9 percent); and Winston-Salem, North Carolina (8 percent). For some perspective, the Twin Cities area was sitting at No. 7 on the list, with 6,184 recent cases and a 6 percent growth rate.

By Thursday afternoon, Faribault-Northfield’s growth rate was measured at 8 percent, second place on the Times’ list, behind North Wilkesboro.

On Wednesday, Rice County Public Health reported 295 lab-confirmed cases of the virus, the oldest patient at 89 years, and the youngest at 5 months. This number bumped up to 308 on Thursday afternoon. Only 12 have required hospitalization, according to a county press release. So far, two people have died.

The county’s aware things have reportedly picked up speed. Rice has the highest incidence rate in the southwest region of the state, thanks to the uptick the Times detected in the past two weeks.

This, the release assures, is “somewhat artificially inflated” because the county has only recently bumped up its testing capabilities. Most of these cases originate in Faribault, where various manufacturing facilities have stepped up screening efforts, according to health department director Deb Purfeerst’s recent reports to county commissioners. (The entire state has been struggling to get enough testing equipment to properly gauge the scale of the spread.) But “community spread” has also been indicated as a contributing factor in Rice County. 

During regular statewide coronavirus briefings, Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm say Minnesota likely hasn’t seen the worst of this yet, and may not until sometime this summer. By Thursday, our state had seen some 18,200 cases and over 800 deaths.

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