OMAHA — Nebraska health officials identified the state’s first coronavirus case that was transmitted through community spread of the disease along with four new cases.
The Douglas County Health Department said Saturday that a woman in her 60s who was previously diagnosed with COVID-19 started having symptoms before she traveled. Community spread of the virus indicates it is becoming more common in Nebraska because the origin of the case can’t be identified.
Two additional travel-related cases were confirmed Saturday in Douglas County. Those involve a 56-year-old man who traveled to and from Spain and a 31-year-old man who came to the Omaha area from Singapore. Two more cases were identified Sunday in Douglas County, but few details were released about those cases.
Nebraska now has 18 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 16 in Douglas County.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Gov. Pete Ricketts said gatherings of more than 250 people should be avoided now that the coronavirus is spreading in the community. Ricketts said he would wait for a second community spread case in Omaha before ordering schools there to close for six to eight weeks.
Most schools in the Omaha area have already announced temporary closures that will extend their spring breaks to roughly two weeks.
Health officials said Sunday that one of the recently identified cases involved a woman who attended a number of public events in the area before she was diagnosed, including the Creighton-Georgetown basketball game on March 4 and the Creighton-Seton Hall game on March 7. She also was at several different Walmarts in the Omaha area.
Anyone who attended those games or shopped where the woman was is encouraged to monitor their symptoms and contact their doctor if they feel ill.
According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases of COVID-19 recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe cases may take three to six weeks to get better. The vast majority of people recover from the virus, which has infected more than 156,000 people worldwide and has killed more than 5,800.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert tried to reassure residents that the city will endure the coronavirus outbreak even though it has led to big changes such as the cancellation of the NCAA’s College World Series and the news that Berkshire Hathaway will hold its annual meeting without any of the tens of thousands of shareholders who typically attend.
“We will recover, and we will move on,” Stothert said. “We do better in times of crisis when we are united.”