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South Heartland District Health Department

Seven more South Heartland Health District residents have been confirmed as positive cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, since Tuesday, the district health department reported Thursday night.

In related news, South Heartland announced it has begun requesting help from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services in keeping up with its increasing contact tracing workload.

“When our residents and visitors to our area are not following the directed health measures or practicing prevention, there are more cases and more contacts to every case. We have been seeing these increases in the last several weeks,” said Michele Bever, health department executive director. “This impacts our department and strains our local public health workforce — and we are unable to respond quickly. The state public health contact tracing team is helping us address this additional load.”

The seven new cases confirmed since Tuesday include six in Adams County and one in Clay County. Ages of the new patients range from under 20 (one) to the 50s (one). Webster and Nuckolls counties, which also are part of the health district, recorded no new cases for the three-day time period.

Meanwhile, a Clay County woman in her 60s who had been previously confirmed positive for the viral infection had to be hospitalized, South Heartland said.

Since mid-March, a running total of 411 South Heartland residents have been confirmed positive for COVID-19. That number includes 341 in Adams County, 52 in Clay, 11 in Webster and seven in Nuckolls.

Three hundred seventy-four of the patients had recovered from the illness as of Thursday, and the district’s death toll stands at 11. A total of 23 district residents have spent time in a hospital in connection with COVID-19.

In Thursday’s news release, Bever said contact tracing is a vital component of the battle against the spread of COVID-19.

“The goal of contact tracing is to quickly identify anyone who has been exposed — or may have been exposed — in order to stop the spread of the illness,” she said. “Contact investigations help protect the friends, family, work colleagues, teammates, church family, community members and others in close proximity to those with the virus. A quick response to help people isolate, if they are infected, or quarantine, if they have been exposed, means fewer additional people are at risk of becoming infected. This is one way to slow the spread.”

While expressing appreciation for the state’s help in contact tracing, Bever urged district residents to up their game when it comes to taking protective steps to thwart the spread of the virus.

“It would be even more helpful if people would follow the directed health measures, practice physical distancing, wear masks, and keep groups small, so that fewer people are exposed to the virus to begin with and there would be fewer cases and contacts to investigate,” she said. “We can expose people up to two days before we develop symptoms ourselves, and some people never have symptoms but are positive and can shed virus. This is why it is important for everyone to do their part and always practice prevention.”

South Heartland urges anyone with even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to stay home. In addition, the department says, everyone should maintain 6 feet of physical separation from others whenever possible; wear a face covering to avoid spreading germs, especially when physical distancing is difficult; wash hands frequently with soap and water; and clean and disinfect any frequently touched surfaces.

The Two Rivers Public Health Department, which serves seven counties to the west of the Hastings area, reported a total of 37 new positive cases of COVID-19 for Tuesday and Wednesday, including two in Kearney County. The Two Rivers health district now has moved into the “elevated” range on its risk dial for further spread of the virus.

The Central Health District, which encompasses Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties, on Wednesday reported 23 new cases of the viral infection since its last report on Monday.

South Heartland District case counts and trends can be found on its dashboard of local COVID-19 case statistics posted to the health department website: www.southheartlandhealth.org.

A total of 867 new cases of the disease were confirmed across Nebraska Tuesday through Thursday, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported.

The state agency 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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