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Roundabout completion delayed

Traffic access from U.S. Highway 6/34 onto Adams Central Avenue won’t open before school starts, according to a news release issued Friday by the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

While the project to add a roundabout at the intersection isn’t scheduled to be substantially completed until November, NDOT had hoped to have Adams Central Avenue open for north and south traffic before Aug. 12, the first day of school for Adams Central Public Schools.

Superintendent Shawn Scott said the district is examining its options, one of which could be adjusting start times to reduce traffic congestion.

“This is very unfortunate for our families and everyone who has to travel to Adams Central,” he said.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

A motorist travels westbound along Highway 6 amid the construction of the roundabout on Adams Central Avenue and Highway 6 Friday.

As soon as schools were closed in March due to the novel coronavirus disease, Scott said, he started calling people involved in the project to see about moving the timetable up so it could be completed before the start of school.

Eric Klein, NDOT District 4 construction engineer, said officials tried to accommodate the school, but there wasn’t a lot of extra time available.

They hoped to be able to start the project sooner, but had to wait for utilities to be moved in the areas involved in the first phase of construction. Recent weather conditions also caused delays.

“Our hope was we would have access available on the 10th,” Klein said. “It was always going to be a challenge.”

Weather permitting, Klein said, the north and south legs of the intersection hopefully will be completed before the Labor Day holiday.

East and west traffic on U.S. Highway 6/34 will remain open throughout the project.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

The completed portion of the roundabout on Adams Central Avenue that will connect to Highway 6 is pictured Friday.

The delay to opening access to the school from the highway will affect traffic around the school for about 17 days, but Scott said the benefits of the construction outweigh the cost.

“It will be a short-term headache for a long-term gain,” he said.

A 2016 traffic study recommended a roundabout on Adams Central Avenue in anticipation of the new elementary school being built across the road to the east. The study also recommended a roundabout to be placed at the nearby highway intersection.

In 2017, NDOT told the the school district it wouldn’t be providing any federal funds at that time to improve the intersection. After the elementary school opened in 2018, the department took another look and began planning to address safety at the intersection, ultimately electing to install a roundabout.

The project is estimated to cost $3.3 million and will be split with the state paying nearly 60%. Adams Central School District agreed to pay 15.75%, not to exceed $520,000. Adams County agreed to pay 23.64% of the project, not to exceed $780,000. The county also provides fiscal oversight for the project.

An Adams County resurfacing project is slated to begin Monday, according to the release. That project will start south of 12th Street and run 1.75 miles south to the north side of the roundabout between the elementary school and high school.

The resurfacing project is expected to be complete by Aug. 12. Adams Central Avenue will remain open with the use of a pilot car through the construction area.

Fauci confident virus vaccine will get to Americans in 2021

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that he remains confident that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by early next year, telling lawmakers that a quarter-million Americans already have volunteered to take part in clinical trials.

But if the future looks encouraging, public health alarms are still going off in the present. Officials testifying with Fauci at a contentious House hearing acknowledged that the U.S. remains unable to deliver all COVID-19 test results within two or three days, and they jointly pleaded with Americans to comply with basic precautions such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and washing their hands frequently.

Those simple steps can deliver “the same bang for the buck as if we just shut the entire economy down,” said a frustrated Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adding that he has studies to back that up.

Looking ahead, Fauci said he’s “cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021. I don’t think it’s dreaming ... I believe it’s a reality (and) will be shown to be reality.” As the government’s top infectious disease expert, Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Under White House orders, federal health agencies and the Defense Department are carrying out a plan dubbed Operation Warp Speed to deliver 300 million vaccine doses on a compressed timeline. That will happen only after the Food and Drug Administration determines that one or more vaccines are safe and effective. Several candidates are being tested.

Don’t look for a mass nationwide vaccination right away, Fauci told lawmakers. There will be a priority list based on recommendations from scientific advisers. Topping the list could be critical workers, such as as medical personnel, or vulnerable groups of people such as older adults with other underlying health problems.

“But ultimately, within a reasonable period of time, the plans now allow for any American who needs a vaccine to get it within the year 2021,” Fauci said.

Fauci, Redfield, and Department of Health and Human Services “testing czar” Admiral Brett Giroir testified at a moment when early progress against the coronavirus seems to have been frittered away. High numbers of new cases cloud the nation’s path. The three officials appeared before a special House panel investigating the government’s pandemic response, itself sharply divided along party lines.

Nearly 4.5 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19, and more than 150,000 have died. In recent weeks the virus has rebounded in the South and West, and now upticks are being seen in the Midwest. Testing bottlenecks remain a major issue.

Asked if it’s possible to deliver coronavirus test results to patients within 48 to 72 hours, Giroir acknowledged “it is not a possible benchmark we can achieve today given the demand and supply.”

But rapid, widespread testing is critical to containing the pandemic. It makes it easier for public health workers to trace the contacts of an infected person. Delayed test results only allow more people to get infected.

Giroir said a two- to three-day turnaround “is absolutely a benchmark we can achieve moving forward.”

While hospitals can generally deliver in-house test results within 24 hours, large commercial labs that do about half the testing for the country take longer, particularly if there’s a surge in new cases.

The latest government data shows about 75% of test results are coming back within 5 days, but the remainder are taking longer, Giroir told lawmakers.

The bitter politics surrounding the U.S. response to the coronavirus was evident at the hearing by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

As the health officials were testifying, President Donald Trump in a tweet repeated a false claim that high numbers of U.S. cases are due to extensive testing. Committee Chairman James Clyburn, D-S.C., tried to enlist Fauci to rebut the president.

And Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio tried to press Fauci into saying that demonstrations against police violence toward Black Americans spread the virus and should be curbed. Fauci didn’t bite.

“You make all kinds of recommendations,” Jordan said, taking aim at Fauci. “You made comments on dating, baseball, and everything you can imagine ... I’m just asking should we try to limit the protesting?”

Fauci said it’s not his role to opine on curbing political protests. But Jordan shot back, noting that church services have been shut down due to virus precautions, and implying that Fauci has a double standard on two First Amendment rights, religious liberty and freedom of expression.

“I’m not favoring anybody over anybody,” Fauci answered. “And I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd. When you’re in a crowd, particularly if you’re not wearing a mask, that induces the spread.”

Some Trump supporters have urged the president to sack Fauci, and the president’s tweet raised the stakes.

During the hearing Clyburn had displayed a chart showing rising cases in the U.S. juxtaposed with lower levels across Europe. That caught the president’s eye.

Trump tweeted: “Somebody please tell Congressman Clyburn, who doesn’t have a clue, that the chart he put up indicating more CASES for the U.S. than Europe, is because we do MUCH MORE testing than any other country in the World.”

Clyburn turned to Fauci for a real-time fact check.

“Now Dr. Fauci,” the chairman intoned, “do you agree with the president’s statement, or do you stand by your previous answer that the difference is caused by multiple factors including the fact that some states did not do a good job of reopening?”

Fauci answered directly.

“I stand by my previous statement that the increase in cases was due to a number of factors,” he said. One was “that in the attempt to reopen, that in some situations, states did not abide strictly by the guidelines that the task force and the White House had put out.”

City looking for input on transportation and parking plan

Hastings residents have an opportunity to influence the city’s transportation and parking plan and help set goals for years into the future.

Representatives from Denver engineering firm Kimley-Horn will be in Hastings next week for a series of meetings — including a public focus group 6 p.m. Wednesday at the City Auditorium, 400 N. Hastings Ave. — to discuss factors that would go into the transportation and parking plan and gather public input.

“The city administrator and executive committee for transportation plans really wanted to get full feedback from the community involved in this,” said Lisa Parnell-Rowe, development services director for the city of Hastings. “This is a big deal. This transportation plan is going to lay out things for the future regarding transportation. It’s going to provide a road map.”

Members of the Hastings City Council approved a contract in May for the comprehensive transportation and parking plan for the city.

Unlike the city’s one- and six-year road plans, which address just streets in Hastings, Parnell-Rowe said, the transportation and parking plan will take a comprehensive look at the city’s transportation network. That includes everything from the proposed intercity bus service for the Tri-City area, trains, one-way versus two-way streets in downtown as well as building transportation corridors from north to south and east to west.

Wednesday’s meeting is all about goal setting.

“The intent of this is largely to gather goals,” Parnell-Rowe said. “It’s to survey people on their thoughts and their opinions to set the goals and expectations for the transportation plan.”

If a larger group attends Wednesday’s meeting, then organizers will put participants in breakout groups discussing transportation issues and then come back with their thoughts.

“If it is a smaller group, then the planners and I would just facilitate that discussion as a whole instead of at breakout tables,” she said.

No matter how many people attend the meeting on Wednesday, organizers will be ready with plenty of space.

“That’s one of the reasons we chose the auditorium, of course, was to allow for lots of space,” Parnell-Rowe said. “We’ll have appropriate spacing at the tables.”

Participants will be required to wear masks.

“We felt it would be very important to do this in person, so that the public can participate and understand their opinions are being heard,” she said.

Mary Lanning joins TestNebraska initiative

Area residents in need of free testing for the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in coming weeks will be able to have that test at Mary Lanning Healthcare under a new partnership between Mary Lanning and the state of Nebraska.

To determine their eligibility for the free test, Nebraska residents will take an online assessment through the TestNebraska portal. Those who are eligible will be able to come to Mary Lanning and get it under an established schedule.

The detailed schedule will be available closer to Aug. 17, the start date for the new arrangement.

Earlier this year, the state of Nebraska contracted with private vendors including Nomi Health, a Utah company, to ramp up the availability of COVID-19 testing statewide under the TestNebraska moniker. Through TestNebraska, thousands of individuals already have had their samples taken at testing events staffed by Nebraska National Guard personnel in Hastings and across the state.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 testing has been available at the Hastings hospital for several months, but not through TestNebraska up to this point.

In a news release Friday, Terri Brown, MLH laboratory services director, said she is happy to partner with TestNebraska in an effort to make testing available to more people.

“Because testing supplies have been limited off and on during the pandemic, we are glad that this partnernship will help us open up testing,” Brown said.

Nebraska residents are being encouraged to visit the TestNebraska website,, and take the online assessment to determine their eligibility for free testing.