Michele Bever

Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, speaks during a news conference Feb. 27 about area novel coronavirus planning and prevention. Bever announced April 18 that a woman in her 80s was the first death related to COVID-19 in Adams County.

As the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic continues, the South Heartland Health District will remain under the same public health restrictions already in place at least through the month of August.

The South Heartland District Health Department announced the extension of Phase 3 “reopening” for the four-county health district Friday evening.

Directed health measures in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic are issued by the state of Nebraska. The newest DHM took effect at midnight Saturday.

“Under the new state DHM, all restrictions remain the same as in the previous DHM, which means no additional restrictions are being lifted for Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties,” said Michele Bever, health department executive director.

The decision to keep restrictions the same as they have been since June 22 comes at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases in the South Heartland district has been rising at a faster pace than it was back in June.

In her communications with the public in recent weeks, Bever has noted repeatedly that recommendations for social distancing and wearing face coverings aren't being heeded on a widespread basis in the district, even as the number and size of public and private gatherings has been growing.

Sports events, graduations, weddings and other events have resumed, even if on a limited basis, attracting people to congregate and tempting them to resume the style of interaction they were accustomed to prior to the COVID-19 shutdown that took effect in March.

Now, many schools are preparing to reopen for the fall semester.

Bever said it will be important for South Heartland residents to be vigilant over the course of the next month, attempting to thwart further spread of the viral infection that can be deadly for some patients — most notably senior citizens and individuals with underlying health conditions.

“We will need to buckle down on our compliance with the DHM — which extends the focus on limiting gatherings, physical distancing, and quarantine and isolation requirements,” Bever said.

She urged anyone planning a gathering to work with the health department to mitigate the associated risks.

“The DHM provides requirements and guidelines for holding safe gatherings. This is not just for large events — the gathering requirements apply to ANY gathering over 10 people,” she said. “Please contact our department for assistance with planning gatherings so that they comply with the DHM. We are happy to assist.”

“Our COVID-19 cases and contacts will continue to increase if we don’t change our practices. And, we will need to have stable trends in order to move to the next phase. It is more difficult to open schools safely and for schools to remain open when our community risk for COVID-19 spread is continuing to trend up.”

The extended DHM, effective Aug. 1 for Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties, is on South Heartland’s website. South Heartland District case counts and trends can be found on SHDHD’s dashboard of local COVID-19 case statistics.

This dashboard, along with updates, guidance, news releases and other COVID-19 information and links can be found on the SHDHD website: www.southheartlandhealth.org.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services provides daily updates to Nebraska's coronavirus COVID-19 cases on its Data Dashboard at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.

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