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South Heartland District Health Department

The South Heartland District Health Department late Saturday issued a social media release about the “potential community spread” of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in connection with a celebration in Doniphan on March 14.

Then, on Sunday evening, the South Heartland district announced it had received another positive test result for COVID-19 — this one for a female under age 20 who was self-isolating at home and whose symptoms are being actively monitored by public health officials.

The newest case — the fourth total to be reported in Adams County, including one of a Colorado man who will be counted for statistical purposes in his home jurisdiction — is connected to a positive case reported Thursday involving an Adams County man in his 40s who was hospitalized and in isolation in Hastings.

Both the man in his 40s and the female under age 20 attended “an event in Hall County on March 14,” according to Sunday evening’s news release from South Heartland.

The female has reported minimal symptoms, including loss of smell and taste — two symptoms that have been associated with COVID-19 infections in some people, South Heartland said Sunday.

In Saturday’s release, South Heartland said it had learned recently about “potential community spread” at a large birthday celebration in Doniphan on March 14.

The South Heartland health district encompasses Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties. Doniphan is in Hall County, which is just a few miles north of the Hall-Adams county line but is within the jurisdiction of the neighboring Central District Health Department. The Central District encompasses Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties.

On Sunday afternoon, the Central District Health Department issued a news release announcing that as of noon Sunday that district had seen six laboratory-confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. The district’s first two cases were announced on Thursday.

On Friday, the Central District Health Department announced that one patient in its jurisdiction testing positive, a hospitalized woman in her 60s who had underlying health conditions, had died. In the same release, CDHD announced it had seen a total of three confirmed positive cases to that point, and that “community spread” was present in the district — meaning it is unknown how infected individuals became exposed to the virus.

In Sunday’s release, CDHD mentioned a birthday party on March 14.

“There has been community concern for a birthday party held on March 14, 2020, in our district,” Sunday’s release states. “CDHD reported no positive cases of COVID-19 at that time, and therefore no notice was provided to the public. We urge the community to focus on the fact that the virus is active in our community now and will likely continue to spread. Every one of us has a responsibility to reduce that spread by practicing social distancing and staying home when sick.”

Because of the “community spread” designation in the Central District Health Department, Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties, along with the neighboring counties of Butler, Polk, Seward and York, now are covered under Directed Health Measures, just as are several other Nebraska counties based on identification of COVID-19 “community spread.”

In Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties, at least, the Directed Health Measure now in force includes:

  • Prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • Restricting alcohol sales to carry-out sales and delivery only, to the extent permitted by law.
  • Limiting food and beverage sales at restaurants, bars, taverns, private clubs and dine-in establishments to drive-through, carry-out and delivery only.
  • Requiring that child care be carried out in groups of 10 or fewer children, with the same 10 children kept in each group to the extent possible. In situations where more than one group of children is present, each group is to be in a separate room separated by either physical walls or “sufficient airspace.”

Meanwhile, to protect first responders, health care workers and all residents, the South Heartland District Health Department asks anyone who attended the March 14 gathering in Doniphan to practice social distancing (staying 6 feet away from others and having contact for less than 10 minutes) and to monitor for respiratory symptoms related to COVID-19 including:

  • Fever higher than 100.4 degrees
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat

If anyone develops symptoms, the South Heartland district recommends they stay home. Do not go to work. Eight out of 10 people with COVID-19 have mild illness, and may not need medical attention. Anyone whose symptoms become severe and needs to seek medical attention is asked to call ahead and let the facility know you may have been exposed and you are ill.

As of Friday, the Adams County man in his 40s who was hospitalized was in stable condition at Mary Lanning Healthcare, the hospital CEO announced at a news conference.

The Colorado man, who is in his 50s, also was at Mary Lanning and was in critical condition and on a ventilator.

The South Heartland district’s first positive COVID-19 case, an Adams County woman in her 40s, had recovered fully and completed her period of required isolation at home.

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