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Flyover boosts spirit of hospital, community

Although short-lived, the flyover of a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker by the Nebraska Air National Guard Monday morning lifted the spirits of community members in Tribland and across the state.

The flight, which previously was planned as a training exercise for pilots of the KC-135, was molded into a tribute to Nebraska’s health care workers for their efforts during the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic. More than 30 hospitals statewide were on the schedule.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

The Nebraska National Guard flies over Mary Lanning Healthcare Monday morning to salute Nebraska’s heroes.

It originally was set to happen during the afternoon of May 13, but inclement weather, including rain and low cloud cover, postponed the event.

Monday’s blue skies and temperature climbing into the 60s by the estimated flyover time of 11:39 a.m. created a perfect scene for locals to gather outside of their homes or places of work for viewing.

Many folks watched the plane pass from the parking lot at Mary Lanning Healthcare in a further effort to recognize hospital personnel. And those on hospital staff who were available to stepped outside the walls and enjoyed the salute themselves.

Mike Waters, a resident of Hansen, was in town for a heart checkup appointment at Mary Lanning Monday morning. With news of the flyover, he decided he’d stick around to watch. Not to mention, Waters was riding in his red Ford Mustang convertible — which, with the top down, provided comfortable viewing.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said Waters.

Christy Olson of Edgar drove into town for the viewing of the flight with her mother. Olson said she spent time in the hospital last fall, so she was especially thankful for those at the hospital being honored with the flight.

“I don’t remember much of my week-and-a-half stay here, but I’m thankful for a lot of these people,” Olson said.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

People gather to watch the Nebraska National Guard flyover salute to Nebraska’s heroes Monday at Mary Lanning Healthcare.

Nancy Foxworthy was visiting Hastings from Kansas City to celebrate her mother’s 97th birthday with family. She figured the flyover might be a nice way to get outside, considering one of her family friends, Dr. Shellie Faris, is a surgeon with the hospital.

“This a great salute for the work they do,” Foxworthy said.

The flyover lasted only a few minutes for those in town. From the north end of Mary Lanning to the south end, the plane hovered for roughly 15 seconds while flying some distance between 1,000 to 1,500 feet above ground at roughly 200 miles per hour.

“That was really cool,” one employee dressed in scrubs said.

“Back to work!” said another.

Adams County COVID-19 death toll increases by two

Two more Adams County residents have lost their lives after a battle with the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, the South Heartland District Health Department announced Monday night.

South Heartland announced the fatalities, plus three additional laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the four-county district, in a news release.

“We are saddened to report two additional coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths in Adams County residents,” said Michele Bever, South Heartland executive director. “This disease continues to impact individuals in our communities, and we urge everyone to continue to take precautions to protect the health of our community members, especially our most vulnerable.”

The two victims are a man in his 60s who had been hospitalized with underlying medical conditions, and a woman in her 80s with underlying medical conditions.

The fatalities bring to 10 the South Heartland death toll related to COVID-19. All 10 of the victims have been from Adams County.

The new cases announced Monday include two in Clay County and one in Adams County, bringing the total number of cases in the four-county health district to 278 — 250 in Adams County, 22 in Clay County, five in Webster County, and one in Nuckolls County.

The new Clay County patients are a female under age 20 and a woman in her 40s. The Adams County patient is a woman in her 60s.

To date, 175 South Heartland residents have recovered from COVID-19 since the beginning of the local outbreak in mid-March, including 162 in Adams County, eight in Clay County, four in Webster County, and one in Nuckolls County.

South Heartland continues to conduct contact investigations for individuals who test positive and live in the four-county district.

“Individuals with any symptoms consistent with coronavirus disease should stay home from work and isolate at home to avoid spreading the illness to others,” South Heartland stated in Monday’s news release. “COVID-19 symptoms may include a cough, fever, fatigue, difficulty breathing, runny nose, diarrhea, headache, sore throat, nausea/vomiting, body aches, and new loss of taste and smell. In many cases, a person will have more than one of these symptoms.”

Bever said the health department will continue to emphasize social distancing and prevention — even more so with the new directed health measures that took effect on Monday.

The new measures allow the reopening of restaurant dining rooms, barbershops and salons, massage therapy practices and body art businesses, but with various safety regulations in force.

“We are not yet out of danger for increased spread of COVID-19 disease,” she said. “We encourage restaurants, salons and other businesses that are affected by the changes to the DHM to review carefully the guidance for reopening. Please follow all of the recommendations to protect the health of your staff and patrons.”

As of Monday, the Central District Health Department, which serves Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties, was reporting a total tally of 1,511 positive cases to date in its jurisdiction, with a death toll of 47.

Nebraska’s statewide tally of positive cases to date stood at 10,625 as of Monday evening, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported. The statewide death toll stood at 125.

South Heartland District case counts by county are updated daily on SHDHD’s COVID webpage: https://southheartlandhealth.org/public-health-data/corona-virus.html. The state provides daily updates to Nebraska’s coronavirus COVID-19 cases on their Data Dashboard at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.

High school finals rodeo won't be in Hastings this year

With public health concerns related to the novel coronavirus disease remaining, the Adams County Agricultural Society has opted not to play host to the 2020 Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo on the Adams County Fairgrounds in June.

The decision was announced Monday afternoon in a news release from the Ag Society.

The three-day rodeo had been scheduled for June 18-20. The Ag Society has for many years provided the venue for the event, which draws rodeo participants, families and spectators from across Nebraska.

“After receiving guidance from the local health department and the governor’s office, it was determined that protecting the health of the participants and the community will be best met by not hosting the event,” the Ag Society said in its announcement. “Directed health measures, including limitations of gathering size of events, social distancing, requiring the wearing of masks, and testing all volunteers and committee members for COVID-19, was not feasible.”

The high school finals rodeo is one of the highlights of the year on the Adams County Fairgrounds, and the decision not to play host to the event this year wasn’t taken lightly.

“It was an emotional decision, but it was decided that, in order to be socially responsible, there was no reasonable way to keep competitors, fans, volunteers and sponsors healthy,” the Ag Society said. “Directed health measures have made it nearly impossible.

“We will miss seeing the bright smiles and eager faces of our Nebraska high school rodeo athletes and we’ll be ready for them in 2021!”

The 2021 Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo is set to take place in Hastings, June 17-19.

The Nebraska High School Rodeo Association now must look at its options for a 2020 finals event. For more information on the association as it moves forward with alternate plans, visit the group’s website at www.hsrodeo-nebraska.com.

School board honors retirees

With gatherings limited to no more than 10 people, it wasn’t possible for the Hastings Board of Education to honor district retirees in person Monday, but they were honored nonetheless.

The board normally honors retirees during the regular May meeting.

“Obviously, we couldn’t pull that off under these current circumstances,” Superintendent Jeff Schneider said. “Although they’re not off the hook yet because we will be contacting these individuals to find a time we can meet with them in person to present them with a couple gifts.”

He and Board President Jim Boeve led the rest of the board in a round of applause honoring the 13 retirees who worked a total of 309 years of service.

“This is not the way we wanted to honor you,” Schneider said. “I know I’ve spoken to a couple personally. They’re not very excited about how this has happened, either. This is not how they envisioned the end of their career — but, just like our students, they will stick together, and we’ll come through this stronger.”

The retirees, the schools or offices where they have served, and their total years of service include:

  • Steve Adelson, Hastings High School, eight years
  • Suzanne Anstine, Hastings High, 30 years
  • Diane Bumgardner, district office, 17 years
  • Teresa Burns, Hastings High, 13 years
  • Doug Jorgensen, district office, 25 years
  • Robert Kerr, Hastings High, 34 years
  • Fred Knapple, Hastings Middle School, 28 years
  • Cynthia Lewis, Longfellow Elementary, 24 years
  • Patty Meyer, Lincoln Elementary, 30 years
  • Connie Niles, district office, 40 years
  • Cheryl Schuff, Lincoln Elementary, 32 years
  • Rod Tickle, Hastings High, 22 years
  • Belle Williams, Hastings High, six years

In other business, board members 9-0 approved a $146,535 bid from Computer Hardware for 750 laptop computers.

The purchase is an effort to prepare students for the possibility of continued distance learning during the 2020-21 school year. The computers would be used by students in second through seventh grades. The district already has a 1:1 program for grades eight through 12.

There are more than 750 second- through seventh-grade students in the district.

Trent Kelly, HPS director of technology and operations, wrote in an email answer to a question that the district also will be using computers it already owns.

Board members also unanimously approved the 2020-21 facilities usage contract with the Hastings Family YMCA for $15,000 to use the 16th Street YMCA pool.

Supervisors cautiously return to in-person meetings

When members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors meet Tuesday morning, they will do so as a complete board in their meeting room at the courthouse.

Board Chairman Lee Hogan said the decision to not include any teleconference aspect to the meeting was made due to problems using Zoom and the lack of communication during meetings between board members in the meeting room and board members participating remotely.

The supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday is the first for any Hastings or Adams County elected board without a teleconference component since the beginning of April.

Hogan said the county will continue to follow the 10-person social distancing rule, limiting attendance inside the supervisors’ meeting room to the seven-member board, County Clerk Ramona Thomas, Deputy County Attorney David Bergin and one public speaker at a time — all of whom will be spread out.

As the county board begins to meet in person, county officials continue to take a cautious approach to allowing more people inside the courthouse.

Adams County temporarily suspended public access to the Treasurer’s Office starting March 27. Supervisor Scott Thomsen, who chairs the county’s buildings, grounds and equipment committee, worked with County Treasurer Melanie Curry on that decision.

“There were just an awful lot of concerns with the number of people coming in,” Thomsen said. “It just seemed at times — this was early in the virus alerts — there were concerns people were not taking it as seriously as needed to be. Other counties were closing down, and some of (their residents) were coming over, trying to do business in our county. There was just a concern of keeping everybody safe.”

He said the Treasurer’s Office may reopen by appointment.

Even outside the courthouse, it’s possible 6-foot increments may be marked to ensure people waiting to enter practice social distancing.

“It’ll be nice to have the Treasurer’s Office open again, but only if we can do it safely,” Thomsen said.

For the city of Hastings, City Administrator Dave Ptak sees June 1 as the earliest possible day to reopen operations to the public, after the current directed health measurers expire May 31, and only then if city officials feel safe enough to do it.

“I’m probably a little more conservative as far as wanting to open things up, getting back to normal, until we know exactly what the effect of these directed health measures’ relaxation does,” he said. “I’ve read a lot about pandemics that have occurred in the past, and it always seemed that there is a second wave of these things. The last thing I want to do is open something up and have a bunch of relapse occur that causes us to have to go the other way again.

“I think as we start to relax these directed health measures we’re going to probably see what I would call a tsunami effect as far as people wanting more. It’s just a matter of what we can do.”

County officials have been looking at what they can do to make the courthouse safer for the public as well as employees.

Thomsen said the plan is to introduce infrared, non-contact thermometers to screen individuals entering county buildings.

“It just all boils down to what we can do and what we can do safely,” he said. “Like everybody says, if you mess it up you start all over again.”

Attendance at the courthouse will be limited to 10 people in a room at a time.

On March 19 Adams County limited public attendance at the courthouse to 10 people at a time.

Thomsen said in the last two months, the courthouse has averaged 40-100 people each day, depending on court proceedings. Those figures are a steep decrease from a daily average of about 500 people prior to COVID-19

“I think the public needs a pat on the back,” he said. “They are realizing they can do business with the courthouse in other ways. That’s just fantastic, not only for them, but for our employees too. We’re all in this together. If we want to eradicate it or flatten the curve, we all have to do our part.”