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Last week the Nebraska State Legislature held a briefing on the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. So, today I would like to update you on what is happening in Nebraska to combat the virus. Officials in Nebraska began planning for the coronavirus two months ago, so several measures have already been put into place to deal with this disease.
The coronavirus has the potential to spread very rapidly due to its 14 day incubation period. People who carry the disease can spread it long before symptoms ever develop. For this reason, the entire country of Italy has been put on lock-down, Israel has halted all international travel, and Ireland has canceled all of their St. Patrick’s Day parades.
The good news is that Nebraska remains in the containment phase of dealing with COVID-19. The first case was diagnosed when an individual returned to Nebraska from England. Since then others have been exposed. For instance, one infected individual played in a Special Olympics basketball game at the YMCA in Fremont, exposing those in the gymnasium who viewed the game, and the North Central District Health Department has confirmed another case in a Crofton High School student who attended the Girls State Basketball tournament in Lincoln. Despite these public events with large exposure, Nebraska has been able to remain in the containment phase of preventing the disease.
Nebraska has 18 local health departments that are prepared to test people for the disease. As of last Tuesday contact investigators had identified 240 people living in Nebraska who may have been exposed to the disease. These individuals have been instructed to self-quarantine themselves in order to contain the spreading of the disease. Our plan is to curb the spreading of the disease through these self-containment efforts.
Currently, all those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been admitted into the bio-containment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. These individuals are being closely monitored with their vital signs and other symptoms being recorded twice per day. Isolation is the remedy being used to stop the spreading of the disease among those who have it.
Nebraska currently has no community spread cases; however, this could change very rapidly if our containment efforts should ever fail. If the spreading of the disease ever rises to the level of being community spread, the Department of Health and Human Services would begin enacting mitigation procedures.
The time to prepare for COVID-19 is now. We will get beyond this crisis. As life goes on, there are some simple things we all can do. Washing hands, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and limiting contact with others remain the best ways to prevent the spreading of the disease. Because those who are most at risk are the elderly, the CDC has recommended that those over the age of 60 stay at home as much as possible. Others at high risk include those with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes 2, and pulmonary diseases.
Together we can contain the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. If you get a fever or begin to experience flu-like symptoms, call the University of Nebraska Medical Center at (800) 922-0000 before you visit a doctor’s office or a hospital. Then, get tested, stay at home, and follow the instructions given to you by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. For more information on COVID-19, please visit https://www.nebraskamed.com/patients/covid19.