COIVD-19 Cases Continue to Climb in Southwest Nebraska
Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department (SWNPHD) had a total of 947 cases of COVID-19, 681 of which occurred in the past 30 days reported November 2nd. A breakout by county includes: Chase – 165 Dundy – 36; Frontier – 46; Furnas – 99; Hayes – 22; Hitchcock – 60; Keith – 135; Perkins – 78; Red Willow – 306. Recovered cases are at 551 with 377 still symptomatic. Deaths due to COVID-19 are at 19.
Case investigations have revealed that most of the current spread of COVID-19 in southwest Nebraska is occurring at small gatherings and workplaces, along with community spread. SWNPHD recommends that everyone take precautions to protect their friends, neighbors, and coworkers by avoiding the three C’s, even in small groups, which are 1) crowded places, 2) close contact, and 3) confined spaces.
Event safety plans are still required by the Directed Health Measures for venues with a total capacity of 500 people or more, and must be approved by SWNPHD. Plans for venues that hold less than 500 people should be sent to city or village officials for approval. Currently no indoor event plans will be approved unless all participants are required to wear masks for the entire indoor portion of the event, until the community risk dial is no longer at orange. Anyone organizing a gathering should separate participants into groups of eight or less and limit contact between groups, to reduce the number of potential exposures. To this point there has been very little spread related to school attendance. The school systems and public health are working diligently to quickly identify and isolate positive staff or students and quarantine their close contacts. Many schools are requiring masks while the risk dial is in orange, which has greatly reduced the number of students or staff that need to quarantine by preventing exposures in classrooms. These methods have proven effective enough that in the event the community risk dial moves to red, most schools will be able to continue with in-person learning. The COVID-19 Community Risk Dial for the week of November 2 remains at orange, meaning residents of southwest Nebraska have a high risk of contracting COVID-19. Testing is available but may require travel. Healthcare systems in the health district and across the state are burdened by the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19. Orange level recommendations include wearing a mask in public, washing hands and surfaces often, limiting travel, and working from home when possible. High-risk and vulnerable individuals should avoid public places.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Dundy County has more than doubled in the last two-weeks. The county has added 19 new the positive COVID-19 cases since October 20, according to infmration from the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department. As of Tuesday morning, SWNPHD was reporting that the county has had a total of 36 positive cases since the first one was reported in late July. With the increase in cases the Dundy County Hospital Quality Medical Clinic is changing how they bring patients into the clinic. They are now asking all people who have appointments or want to be seen in the clinic to wait in their cars until they can be escorted into the facility. People are being asked to call the clinic at 308-423-2151 when they arrive in their vehicles. Patients will be brought into the clinic one by one to reduce the amount of exposure time and gathering of people in the lobbies and hallways at the clinic. Hospital CEO Rita Jones says they are making the change because of the increase in positive COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 symptoms vary. “We feel like you don’t know and there are lots of people who don’t even show symptoms,” she said. Jones said they have treated COVID-19 patients at the hospital. “At the present time we don’t have any COVID-19 patients in the hospital,” she said. “But, that can change at any time.” She explained they are able to treat up to 3 COVID-19 patients at a time at DCH and they are able to provide the patients with current treatments including the drug Remdesivir, the drug that was given Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the virus. Jones said that if they have a patient who is severe enough to need longer term care, they would transfer them to a larger hospital. With the big spike in cases and hospitalizations across Nebraska there is some concern that it could become challenging to find a facility to tranfer a patient too. However, she said, that hasn’t happened and hopefully it won’t. She said people can help control the spread by wearing masks, socially distancing, and staying away from large indoor gatherings in confined spaces.