Honking and waving, Hastings Catholic Schools students and their family members cruised past their campuses Thursday afternoon as a way to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, social-distancing style.
Participants gathered in the parking lot outside the former Kmart at the Imperial Mall, then headed to St. Michael’s Church and School near Seventh Street and Creighton Avenue.
From there, the vehicles headed for St. Cecilia Middle and High School, where faculty and staff members waved back and hollered greetings from the sidewalk near Sixth Street and Kansas Avenue and in the parking lot at the nearby Nevrivy Center (the former YWCA building), where HCS administrative offices are housed.
At St. Michael’s, the Very Rev. Jeremy Hazuka, parish pastor, greeted the parade participants outside the church and offered his priestly blessing. At St. Cecilia, blessings were offered outside the Nevrivy Center by the Rev. Thomas Brouillette, chief administrative officer of Hastings Catholic Schools, and the Rev. Adam Sughroue, director of campus ministry.
Thursday’s event was organized by HCS and the St. Michael’s Home & School Association, promoting the HCS aspirational motto: “Be One.”
“HCS strives on being one! This cruise is a way that we can #BeOne during these times away from school. We felt that the cruise would be an awesome way to show our teachers how much we truly appreciate them during Teacher Appreciation Week. Our priests will be blessing families in their cars, which is a great way to show our love for Christ while coming together as a Hastings Catholic Schools community,” said Monica Munter, mother of St. Michael’s students and co-president of the St. Michael’s Home & School Association.
The Hastings Catholic Schools system serves the entire community and includes St. Michael’s Elementary School and St. Cecilia Middle and High School.
Administrators and teachers were enthused about Thursday’s event, coming as it does near the end of a tumultuous academic year disrupted by the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic. Students have been receiving instruction by remote means since mid-March, as is the case at all Hastings area schools.
“I am super excited to see students in person, even if it is from a distance! This will be a great way for faculty and staff to reconnect with students, even if it is briefly,” said Carrie Rasmussen, St. Michael’s principal, in the news release announcing the event.
Sandy VanCura, who is completing a memorable final year as St. Cecilia principal before heading into retirement, echoed those sentiments ahead of Thursday’s event.
“We are hoping to see a lot of our students and families and Thursday,” VanCura said. “We miss our kids.”
Thursday marked the National Day of Prayer, though the national observance looked different through the lens of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Members of Lifehouse Church gathered in a loose group at various locations around town to pray for different aspects of society. The group visited the Hastings Police Station to pray for public protectors and the military, city hall to pray for government, the Rivoli Theatre for media and arts, Adams County Courthouse for economy and business, Mary Lanning Healthcare for family and health, Hasting Senior High School for education and Lifehouse Church for religion.
“There’s no other time that I can remember, except maybe 9/11, that we needed prayer as much as we do now,” Pastor Brett Mackey said.
Due to COVID-19, the Hastings Area Men of Promise had to cancel the National Day of Prayer event that originally was planned at the C3 Hotel.
Organizers and other church leaders encouraged people to join together in prayer during the day, either at sunrise, sunset or anytime in between.
Jack Flanigan, a board member of Hastings Area Men of Promise, has organized the local event for around a decade and was disappointed to have it be canceled this year. The group hosted a video conferencing meeting for people who wanted to pray with one another in that fashion.
“This is perhaps the most important event we do,” he said. “Prayer is very important for ourselves and the nation.”
Flanigan said the decision to cancel the annual event wasn’t made lightly, but it was necessary under the circumstances. They had Ron Brown scheduled to speak at the dinner this year, but hope to bring him next year. They were also excited to have Special Scoops offer to bring ice cream for the event.
This year’s Bible verse is Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
The local event is part of a larger observance through the United States.
The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation, according to the website, www.nationaldayofprayer.org.
Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Harry Truman, declared an annual national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.
Flanigan said he believes the national holiday should be marked on calendars, as with other national holidays.
“It doesn’t have a lot of emphasis every year,” he said. “What other thing would be more valuable than praying for our country.”
The National Day of Prayer is only one event hosted by the Hastings Area Men of Promise every year to bring the community together.
“We want all Christ-based churches to be involved,” Flanigan said. “That’s what the Hastings Area Men of Promise is about, breaking down walls between groups. We all serve the same Jesus Christ.”
Anyone interested in joining the Hastings Area Men of Promise can contact him at 402-984-6631.
Adams County’s running tally of confirmed coronavirus disease cases ticked up by four on Thursday, the South Heartland District Health Department announced.
The new cases bring to 213 the total number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in the county to date. Clay County’s running tally of 13 cases and Webster County’s tally of five cases remained unchanged on Thursday. The fourth county in the health district, Nuckolls, has yet to see a confirmed positive case.
Thursday’s additional cases bring to 231 the total number of cases reported in the health district since mid-March.
As of Thursday, 144 COVID-19 patients in the South Heartland district had recovered, the health department said. Six patients have died.
The new cases reported Thursday include a female under 20 and three men — one in his 20s, one in his 30s, and one in his 40s.
In a Thursday night news release, Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland health department, provided information about testing conducted in Hastings last week by the Nebraska National Guard.
“The test results reported over the past week have included results for individuals tested at a National Guard testing event on April 27-28. This testing event was a resource shared with SHDHD through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The testing was for health care workers, responders, critical infrastructure personnel and vulnerable or at risk individuals.
“Of the 299 people tested by the National Guard, 32 had positive lab-confirmed COVID-19 test results, a positivity rate of 11% for the event.
Some individuals tested at the event work in the South Heartland District but live outside the health district. If these individuals tested positive, the case numbers are included in their county of residence, not in the county where they work.
“Considering only those individuals who live in the South Heartland District, the rate of positive tests from the National Guard event was 9.8%,” Bever said.
South Heartland continues to conduct contact investigations for individuals who test positive and live in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls or Webster counties. As a reminder, people who test negative on a given day aren’t protected from COVID-19 exposure the following days, so continued practice of social distancing and prevention is necessary.
On Tuesday, Sanford Health, parent company of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, which operates Good Samaritan Society-Hastings Village, reported that mass testing had turned up nine additional positive cases of COVID-19 among skilled-nursing residents there, as well as eight cases among employees.
The new positives brought to 12 the total number of skilled-nursing residents who had tested positive as of Tuesday. Four of those residents had died, the company said.
After Tuesday’s announcement raised questions as to the scope of the mass testing on the Hastings campus, Shawn Neisteadt, a spokesman at company headquarters in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, clarified that the testing had included all skilled-nursing facility residents and employees, plus employees of the affordable housing area on the campus commonly known as Good Samaritan Village.
Mass testing refers to everyone in a group of people being tested regardless of whether they have shown signs of illness, and the company wasn’t claiming that all residents and employees at GSV had been tested. Notably, six of the eight employees who tested positive for the disease were asymptomatic.
“The Good Samaritan Society worked with the department of health to determine which areas of the campus should take part in the mass testing,” said Neisteadt, a senior media relations specialist at Sanford Health, in a statement Thursday afternoon.
The Hastings Village provides skilled-nursing services at Perkins Pavilion.
Sanford and the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, both nonprofits based in Sioux Falls, merged in January 2019.
The Central District Health Department, which serves Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties, announced confirmation of 16 new positive cases on Thursday, along with two additional deaths.
The district’s total number of positive cases to date now stands at 1,375, including 1,306 in Hall County, 52 in Hamilton County and 17 in Merrick County. The district’s death toll related to COVID-19 stands at 42.
In the Two Rivers Public Health District, which includes seven counties to the west of the Hastings area, 11 new cases were confirmed on Thursday. They include six in Dawson County, three in Buffalo County, one in Franklin County and one in Phelps County.
Franklin County, which is in Tribland, now has recorded six cases to date. Kearney County has recorded seven cases. Harlan County has recorded no cases.
Dawson County, which has been hard hit, accounts for 686 of the district’s 832 total cases. Buffalo County accounts for 113, and Phelps and Gosper counties have recorded 10 cases each.
In the Public Health Solutions Health District, which is east of South Heartland, the case tally to date includes three cases in Fillmore County. Thayer County still has seen no confirmed cases.
As of Thursday evening, the state of Nebraska’s running case total stood at 7,190, with 90 fatalities, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported.
In Kansas, a statewide total of 6,144 cases had been reported as of Thursday, with 147 deaths.
Tribland counties in Kansas are Jewell, which has had four confirmed cases; and Smith, which has had two cases.
Adams County soon will be seeking bids for paving the Adams County Office Building parking lot.
Members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 during their regular meeting Tuesday to authorize Lance Harter with Oak Creek Engineering of Kearney to let bids to pave the parking lot with concrete.
This was after the supervisors unanimously rejected a $190,279.50 bid on March 17 for surfacing the county parking lot — between Third and Fourth streets and St. Joseph and Kansas avenues — near the Adams County Office Building with asphalt. It was the only bid received. The engineer’s estimate for asphalt was $125,430.
“Asphalt’s a very poor choice,” Supervisor Dale Curtis said. “Cars are parked there long term during the day, oil leaks, gas leaks, the heavy weight on asphalt during the summer — if you don’t concrete it we’re crazy.”
Also during the meeting, supervisors unanimously approved gravel agreements, as well as maintenance agreements with the five township boards that have responded so far: Denver, Hanover, Kenesaw, Silver Lake and Wanda.
The agreements are for July 1 through Dec. 31, at which point the township governments are dissolved and Adams County takes oversight of those gravel roads, according to the public vote in November, 2018.
Township boards that haven’t responded so far have until July 1 to do so.
“We’re just taking them as we get them right now,” Highway Superintendent Dawn Miller said.
In other business, the supervisors:
Unanimously approved an amended resolution for county asphalt projects.
Unanimously approved a $68,381.50 bid from Ace Irrigation for culverts.
Unanimously approved creation of the Bohlen Fourth Subdivision at the southeast corner of East Prairie Lake Road and South Blaine Avenue concurrent with vacation of the Bohlen Third Subdivision.