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Coalition making masks to benefit community, area felines

Even with some social distancing guidelines being reduced, the public demand for face masks still exists. And one Hastings organization’s cause for making masks is becoming the cat’s meow.

Judy Hoch, president of the Adams County Feline Coalition, started out making masks to donate to health care workers and for neighbors. But as more people reached out to Hoch about obtaining a mask, she realized she could do some additional good for the coalition.

“I got to thinking that the whole mask-wearing thing could really develop into a necessity for our society,” Hoch said. “We met with our board of directors and we thought, ‘Maybe we could help the kitties by making (masks).’ On our board ... we have cutters and people that do the first seam, so it’s really been a group project. We don’t have a membership of our organization; it’s just six women that run the board, and they’ve all pitched in.”

The board members fo the Adams County Feline Coalition have made more than 1,100 masks to date. After putting their initial focus equipping health care workers, the group started hearing from companies that were looking to help their employees stay safe and healthy.

“A lot of ours went to the hospital — obviously that is the first priority, is our health care workers. But now that everyone’s wearing a mask, really masks are important for all sectors of life,” Hoch said. “We are now starting to take orders from businesses. We did 300 for Eaton and then for other smaller businesses, we’ve done 20 here, 12 there, 15 there, 40 on the next order. A lot of businesses are stepping up and providing cloth masks to do what they can to protect their own employees.”

The ACFC board is made up of Hoch, Susie Stahl, Mary Seiler, Kristin Pavelka, Kristin Buhr and Meg May. Together, the six have formed their own assembly line, but one that ensures they are still able to maintain social distancing guidelines. Hoch said she buys the fabric and then drops it off at the house of a fellow board member to have the material cut. It is then put into plastic bags and dropped off at another member’s house for the next stage of the process.

“We text, ‘Hey, I have my masks cut out and I’m going to leave them on the front porch.’ We have not seen each other through all of this because we know the importance of not being together and social distancing,” Hoch said.

Though the Feline Coalition hasn’t made masks with kittens on the fabric, they have created some fun masks. Hoch said she just ordered some Kansas State University fabric for her daughter and son-in-law and said she’s also got some Husker material heading her way.

“We may not have football, but we can at least show our pride for our football team,” she said.

Hoch said she’s seen some masks for sale in Hastings as expensive as $15 or $20. She believes that’s “a bit much” for some people to afford, so she and the coalition are selling their masks for just $5, with all of the profits going to the ACFC.

“That’s a pretty cheap way to protect your health and the ones you love,” Hoch said.

The Adams County Feline Coalition has two main focuses, one of which is working with trappers to round up feral felines to have them neutered and then release them. The cats also are administered a rabies vaccination before they are released. Hoch said the board is extremely thankful for the veterinary clinics — Companion’s Choice, TLC Vet Care and Animal Clinic — that have agreed to work with the coalition. She said they are “part of the heroes of our project.”

ACFC’s other priority is providing supplemental cat food to seniors with felines who struggle to afford to buy food for their furry friends.

“If you’re a senior and living by yourself, buying cat food can be a stretch on a limited budget. Yet, having a cat is tremendous companionship,” Hoch said. “Having those animals is sometimes the main reason to get up in the morning. We think providing them with a little boost to their kitty is a great thing, too.”

Hoch and the board had to take a brief break from making masks while waiting for a shipment of elastic to come in. But now, fully stocked with materials, Hoch said the ACFC board is ready to take mask orders from the public, with a limit of six per order.

“We have too many people wanting them so we have a limit of six, but if they want to order they can reach us through Facebook or through adamscountyfelinecoalition@gmail.com,” Hoch said. “There are so many women sewing masks right now; we just have a little niche in it because we’re doing it for the kitties and for the community. That’s the bottom line: We’re doing this not because we’re making big bucks, but we’re doing this because people need to be wearing these masks.”

COVID-19 increases continue in Nebraska as businesses reopen

Associated Press

LINCOLN — Businesses have started reopening in Nebraska, even as the number of coronavirus cases surges, raising concerns among medical experts.

Projections have long suggested the pandemic would peak at the end of April in Nebraska. But Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said it appears that cases have only plateaued at best — and at much higher levels than had been seen just weeks earlier, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Nebraska had 8,234 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday, up 641 from Friday. The number of deaths related to the virus outbreak increased to 96. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

“We are not out of the woods by any means,” Rupp said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts on Friday declined to say whether he thinks the state has peaked. He noted that the University of Washington model that once had Nebraska cases peaking in late April now has moved the peak into early May.

But he said he’s not so much focused on the case numbers as he is on whether Nebraska’s hospitals are being overwhelmed with patients, and they’re not.

“We slowed down the spread of the virus, we flattened the curve, so that peak did not overwhelm our health care system,” he said.

Dr. Daniel Brailita, an infectious disease specialist with Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings, said the models for the pandemic showing an April peak clearly did not anticipate how explosively the virus would spread within meatpacking communities.

Because of huge outbreaks in a number of meatpacking counties, Nebraska leads the nation in percentage growth in new confirmed cases, according to a World-Herald analysis of national data.

“They started like a burning fire,” Brailita said. “West of Lincoln and Omaha, we had some very scary spikes in hospital admissions and (ventilator patients).”

Both Brailita and Rupp said it’s important for people to be vigilant in following all of the guidance and restrictions that remain in place.

“If we ignore the social distancing, if we stop wearing masks and don’t pay attention to hygiene, we will see a surge in cases,” Rupp said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Nebraska reports 8,234 coronavirus cases, 4 new deaths

Associated Press

OMAHA — Health officials say the number of coronavirus cases in Nebraska has topped 8,000, and four more deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said the number of coronavirus cases in the state increased by 403 on Saturday to 8,234. The number of deaths related to the virus outbreak increased to 96. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

One of the new deaths was a Douglas County man in his 60s who did not have any underlying health conditions. Details of the other three deaths weren’t immediately available.

For some infected people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness or death. But for most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.

State officials also said that a staff member at the Nebraska Correctional Services Department’s Staff Training Academy has tested positive for the coronavirus. To date, eight Corrections employees, including six who work at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, have tested positive.

Department Director Scott Frakes said three inmates at the state prison are being tested and have bee segregated from other inmates because they had close contact with a staff member who tested positive for the virus. These three tests are the first administered to state inmates.

Museum collecting COVID-19 experiences

The Hastings Museum is asking for public input to help record the history of the current pandemic and how it is affecting of the local community.

Teresa Kreutzer-Hodson, curator of collections, said after the initial period of trying to figure out living and working amid the threat of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, it became apparent this would be an important experience to document.

“We talked about we should start documenting this,” she said. “Then I started thinking about ‘How do you document it?’ It could be journals, it could be letters of cancellation, it could be things about school — just the ways it’s affecting everybody. I think all of it will tell a story down the road for other people who either don’t live it or were too young to really remember. I just started thinking about what that could look like.”

She received feedback from a recently retired gentleman who planned on traveling.

“Obviously, that’s not happening,” she said.

She has a graduating senior herself.

The more feedback the museum receives, the more well-rounded the recordkeeping becomes.

“Because everybody’s perspective is different and they are handling it different and they’re being affected differently,” Kreutzer-Hodson said. “Yeah, everybody’s story is different. Some people are just going with the flow and some people are stressed out.”

Contributions can be reported at hastingsmuseum.org/covid-collections or to Kreutzer-Hodson’s email address, tkreutzerhodson@hastingsmuseum.org.

The museum also is asking for examples of personal protective equipment, eventually, once the public feels safe enough to part with it.

“Even if they saved an example or had the person they gave it to save the example for later down the road,” she said.

She said all of this is an example of how the community pulled together.

“It would be great to have examples of those, just maybe not right now,” she said.

Preserving these memories and items will help society remember what life was like dealing with the threat of COVID-19.

“I think that’s why it’s important to save it now, because if we don’t save it now it’s going to get forgotten and then it’ll just be, ‘Oh, yeah, that COVID of 2020,’ ” Kreutzer-Hodson said. “That’s why it’s important to save that, so we have that to look back on.”

The museum’s collection period is open-ended.

“I really want to put it in their mind to remember this stuff is important and save it and then when they feel safe and everything’s open then we can talk about getting it in.”

She’s saving Mayor Corey Stutte’s notes to city employees.

“I’m saving that because it’s documenting some of the efforts the city has made,” she said.

Among examples of potential contributions Kreutzer-Hodson mentioned include pictures people take of themselves homeschooling their children.

“It could be really anything,” she said.