Over the weekend, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services gave resident of Dawes County quite a scare, as the agency’s statewide map indicated there were two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county, as of 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Information was scarce when the cases were first indicated on the map, with no indication of when or where the cases were diagnosed.
Panhandle Public Health District responded quickly to the reports, noting they had received nothing on any confirmed cases in Dawes County and the numbers DHHS reported could be a discrepancy. Within 12 hours that was confirmed as PPHD Director Kim Engel reported Sunday morning that the cases reported to be in Dawes County had been entered with the wrong zip code. Engel further noted the new cases were actually reported in Dawson County.
The Dawes County scare comes on the heels of updated directed health measures from PPHD. The agency also expressed appreciation to residents of the Panhandle for doing their part in working together to flatten the curve and protect the region. As of Monday morning, Dawes, Sioux, Sheridan, Banner, Garden, Deuel and Grant counties have no confirmed cases.
Additional Panhandle statistics for March 2-April 27 include: one case in Box Butte County; six cases in Cheyenne County, four of which have recovered and are out of isolation; 10 cases in Kimball County, all of which have recovered; one case in Morrill County; and 27 cases in Scotts Bluff County, 14 of which have recovered
Though the new directed health measures provide a way to move forward during the pandemic, allowing businesses and churches to open their doors again in a limited capacity, PPHD emphasized the exposure of COIVD-19 has not been reduced. Further, the agency stated, “if we see an increase in exposures and the threat of overwhelming our hospitals, the DHM will become stricter. The phase we are moving into is a true balancing act, and we need your help.”
Governor Pete Ricketts is issuing separate measures for each health district, and PPHD’s measures start May 4.
Hospitals can resume elective surgeries and procedures if they maintain 30% general bed availability, 30% ICU bed availability, 30% ventilator availability, and have a two-week supply of necessary personal protective equipment in their specific facility
Churches will need to ensure six feet of separation between different household units, i.e. families. Also, there is to be no passing of any items amongst congregants. This includes funerals and weddings. Several area churches have gone to providing regular services via online streaming services, or parking lot services during which congregants remain in their vehicles and maintain social distance and other protective measures. Those with loved ones who have passed are often electing for no services or delaying them to a later date.
Beauty and nail salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, and tattoo parlors and studios must follow the rule of having no more than 10 people congregated in their business at any time. Workers and patrons will be required to wear masks.
As for restaurants, dine-in options will again be allowed if: they limit occupancy to 50% of the rated maximum at one time; there is six feet separation between different parties; the maximum dining party size is six, with larger groups split into multiple tables.
Self-serve buffets and salad bars are prohibited. Restaurant staff must serve food directly to customers or implement buffet orders from the customer table.
Bar seating not permitted, and patrons can only consume alcohol if also consuming a meal. Bars that don’t serve food remain limited to carry-out sales and delivery only.
Daycare facilities will expand to no more than 15 children per room or space. All other state provisions, statutes and regulations — including child to staff ratios — still apply.
Bars, gentleman’s clubs, bottle clubs and indoor theaters remain closed until May 31, though this could be subject to change before that date.
Panhandle Public Health District will continue to work with partners to provide additional guidance in preparation for the DHM to go into effect on May 4.
Panhandle Public Health District, Region 21, 22, and 23 Emergency Management, and Scotts Bluff County Health Department are working as a unified command on this evolving situation. Important updates will be regularly communicated to the public and community partners.
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