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While some may read this after Memoria Day, remembering
our fallen soldiers is something we should never forget. So,
on this Memorial Day I am reminded of this poem written by
Lawrence Vaincourt back in 1987 called “A Soldier Died today”:
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.”
Enough is enough! We are now 60 days into the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic first reached American soil, predictions were made by medical experts about its severity and mortality rate. At that time they said the virus was going to be horrific because they were basing their opinions upon insufficient information about the virus. But, at that time it was all they had to go on.
Now we know the facts about COVID-19, and the facts do not back up what was originally projected to happen. The hospitals have not been overrun, we have not exceeded our ventilator usage, and the real death toll from the coronavirus has been much lower than expected. In fact, it has been very similar to an epidemic of influenza.
There is scientific proof that sunlight kills the virus. Likewise, there is no proof that anyone has ever contracted the virus by being outside. The motto to “stay home and stay safe” may not be your best option! It is now known that going outside is far safer than staying indoors.
I have received numerous emails, phone calls, and text messages from across the state. People are trying to make sense out of the Directive Health Measures that have been placed on them, especially the one limiting group sizes to ten people or less. Because of this rule, the Governor has announced that there will be no group gatherings at cemeteries on Memorial Day to honor our veterans. Instead, he plans to hold a virtual Memorial Day observance in the rotunda at the State Capitol Building, which will be televised on NET.
The veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice did so to protect our freedoms! The people currently serving in our armed forces are defending our freedoms as well. They have not, and are not currently serving in order to protect our virtual freedoms! Americans have given up a lot of their freedoms in the past 60 days, yet there is no such thing as a virtual freedom! Liberty either exists, or it does not.
The extinguishing of our freedoms has extended all the way out to include youth sports, especially Little League baseball. The restrictions placed on a child to participate in youth baseball are ridiculous. There is no way for a coach to adhere to all of the restrictions or enforce all of the new rules that have now been put into place. Instead, I believe the players and coaches need to be allowed to abide by the same rules they have had in place for years.
Even the swimming pools have been closed! The reasons for closing the pools are tenuous, at best. Why? Because chlorine kills the coronavirus. So, why are we closing the pools?
Now, the county fairs are even in jeopardy. One county official shared with me how the Extension Office is training people on how to conduct a virtual fair. Our young people have worked very hard to perfect their projects and spent their savings on them, but they will not have an opportunity to show their work or present their animals live at the county fair. It is time to lift these restrictions and let our kids be kids.
Please remember this principle: If the government is big enough to supply all of your needs, then it is also big enough to take everything you have! Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening to many of us during this pandemic. For many people these restrictions have taken away from them everything they’ve ever worked for, such as their small business or farm.
Therefore, we need to open up the economy now. Restricting businesses to 50% of their capacity does not accomplish anything at all. We as Nebraskans need to be able to make decisions about our own lives, where we go, and what we do without a government official deciding these matters for us.
People can decide for themselves whether the activity they want to engage in is dangerous or if it affects others. When it affects others, they can decide what precautions need to be taken in order to protect themselves and others.
It is peculiar that the same restrictions apply to counties that have no COVID-19 cases as those with the most numbers of cases. One size does not fit all. The Governor has already admitted that one size doesn’t fit all. Therefore, it is time for him to start differentiating between those counties which have many cases of the coronavirus from those which have zero or very few cases!
The Liberty Bell
As I write this morning, it seems that spring just cannot seem to break loose! The air is crisp and cool, which reduces my urge to go fishing down to a dream. How I love the great outdoors!
For those of you who have not seen the latest restrictions released by the Nebraska Game and Parks Department: If you own a recreational vehicle that is a self-contained vehicle, has a potable water system, and can connect to an electrical outlet, then you will be allowed to stay at select outdoor recreational areas beginning May 20. However, if you camp in a tent, you will not be allowed to stay overnight at any Game and Parks controlled facilities.
So enjoying the outdoors is not available, except for those who can afford a self-contained recreational vehicle or RV. The rest of us folks, who do not own an RV, well, we are not allowed to camp at any Nebraska Game and Park recreational areas. We can buy a park sticker and we can pay taxes, but we are not allowed to enjoy these parks which we help support.
There is no evidence to prove that anyone has ever contacted the COVID-19 virus outdoors; in fact, sunlight actually kills the virus. So, when Bill Bryan, who is the acting homeland security undersecretary for science and technology said at a White House briefing on April 23 that sunlight kills the virus, he was correct and his statement has been corroborated by infectious disease experts, such as Dr. Amesh A. Adaljah, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who has stated that ultra-violet rays from the sun kills the virus on surfaces.
For this reason, Florida refused to close all of its beaches and other outdoor venues. Some of them have stayed open and have never been closed throughout this pandemic. Florida is the Sunshine State, where UV rays from the sun kills the coronavirus on contact. So, the great outdoors really is the safest place on earth to be during a coronavirus pandemic!
We now know that a vast majority of all of those who have contacted the Covid-19 virus have done so inside their homes. As many as 80 percent of those infected were infected indoors and at home. So the Directive Health Measure which says to, “Stay Home and Stay Safe” may not be the safest thing for you to be doing after all.
With the knowledge that being outdoors is safe, why would the Nebraska Game and Parks Department restrict people from being outdoors? If the people leading the Game and Parks Department really believe that the Governor is somehow responsible for restricting visitors at our state parks, then I want to remind them about what Gov. Ricketts said last week. When asked about the restrictions the Game and Parks Department has placed on these recreational areas, he said they are an agency which makes decisions for themselves.
So, the Game and Parks Department can no longer blame Gov. Ricketts for their own uninformed decision making. It is time for the Game and Parks Department to reopen these parks for everyone, not just a select few who can afford it. It is time for them to make a decision based upon the scientific facts about being outdoors, being safe, and the coronavirus.
If you are a person who likes to camp in a tent or any other way that does not include an RV please reach out to your Game and Parks Commissioners and the management and share what you believe about who should be allowed to use these public parks. Then, go out and enjoy the great outdoors!
Indian Cave State Park
We are now approaching six weeks of America in lock down! Here is what needs to be done to reopen our economy.
First, we must protect the most vulnerable. We need to test workers in our nursing homes, hospitals and healthcare clinics, and those working in the food chain.
I have heard from many people about the financial burden that the Governor’s Directive Health Measures have put on them. One business owner shared with me how he has two businesses in two different communities. His business hasn’t been good and he will have to close both businesses and start over.
I have also heard about the lack of processing in both hogs and cattle. The plants are having a difficult time with their employees not coming to work for fear of the coronavirus. They are functioning at less than 40% capacity. So, the buck stops with the producer! The ranchers, cattle feeders, feedlot operators, and hog producers. We will soon discover how important these folks are. There will be shortages of meat products because of these policies. What is worse is that many in the groups I just mentioned won’t be around to pick up the slack!
Another person shared with me his story about how 40 years of his work will be lost in one year. There are many of you reading this who can relate to this issue. The Governor’s policies have not only affected agriculture but manufacturing and businesses on Main Street as well. It is an equal opportunity offender!
Williams Jennings Byran once said: “Burn down our cities and leave the farms, and our cities will spring up like magic, but destroy our farms and grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country”! We are about to find out if he was right!!
A lot of people are living in fear. I understand that. We seldom ever hear any good news, such as the ten patients of coronavirus in Kimball County who have all recovered. Not everyone who gets the virus dies!
It is becoming more evident that the real number of deaths associated with the virus is not accurate. For instance, a doctor in Italy concluded that only 12% of Italians who have died in that country this year actually died from the coronavirus. That means that 88% percent died from some other cause.
Stanford University has released a report which says the number of folks who have been exposed to the virus is 85 times greater than the original estimates. So what does that mean statistically? The denominator is growing exponentially which means the percentage of deaths from the coronavirus will be no greater than the seasonal flu.
When you analyze what happened in some of our neighboring states. We realize that the leadership in those states made some very wise decisions on how to manage the virus. South Dakota is a prime example. Some will say they have a lot less population, but half of our counties have a very similar population to those in South Dakota. Yet every county in Nebraska was restricted in the same way. One size doesn’t fit all.
The cure or should I say the flattening of the curve has now extended the period of time that we can be exposed to the virus. What the Directive Health Measures have done is kill our economy and prolonged our financial agony! Isn’t it peculiar that you can sell your scrap metal for cash, but you can’t go to church! It is past time to reopen all of the economy.
Last week we, Sen. Steve Erdman and Sen. Steve Halloran, offered a joint article challenging the current response to COVID-19. The current policy that is being used was based upon a flawed model provided by Dr. Neil M. Ferguson, which originally projected the American death toll to be around 2.2 million on March 16. Following that wildly irresponsible projection, on March 29 Dr. Fauci stated on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the death toll would range from 100,000 to 200,000, then two days later, on March 31, he told the American people during a White House press conference to anticipate as much as 240,000 deaths. Finally, on April 9 he revised the number down to 60,000 deaths during an interview on NBC’s “Today Show”.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx are now trying to convince the American public that social distancing is the reason for these drastically revised numbers and that they should somehow be credited for these diminished numbers. However, it defies common sense to attribute social distancing as the reason for a decline from 2.2 million down to 60,000. Instead, the initial projection was intentionally set high in order to make these carryover bureaucrats from the Clinton and Obama administrations look credible once the actual numbers came in. These two physicians acted immorally when they advised the President to implement a policy that was based upon flawed models.
In order to help you see this more clearly, consider that Dr. Fauci played a similar role in curbing the H1N1 pandemic ten years ago. He counseled President Obama in the same way that he counsels President Trump today. However, when the H1N1 pandemic first hit back in 2009 he did not give the same kind of advice to President Obama that he gave to President Trump. Under Dr. Fauci’s watch, from April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010 the CDC recorded that there were 60.8 million cases of H1N1 in the United States, along with 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths. So, why didn’t Dr. Fauci advise President Obama to lock down the nation? Obama never implemented these kinds of draconian measures that we see today, such as closing down schools, even though the H1N1 posed a bigger threat to school age children than the coronavirus. According to a January 2010 article written in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the H1N1 virus, “…caused disproportionate disease among young people…”
We have received many emails concerning the article we wrote last week. While many were supportive, some took an opposing view. We respect those who disagree with our perspective, but few gave any compelling data, facts or other information to counter our argument for herd immunity.
We regret that some have drawn the conclusion that we were emphasizing money over lives. That could not be further from the truth! Instead, we are concerned that when people lose their source of income, it will result in additional health issues. Many of the 22 million unemployed are now without health insurance. Moreover, domestic abuse and suicide hotlines have become overloaded. Alcohol and drug abuse are ramping up, and long lines are now forming at food pantries. Poverty kills. Just as health issues skyrocketed during the days of the Great Depression, why should today be any different?
The current mitigation policies are putting undue strain on our healthcare system. Hospitals are furloughing employees because they cannot perform elective surgeries. Colonoscopies, breast cancer screenings, and ultrasounds are being delayed, yet these are the procedures we need in order to prevent premature deaths. The longer we make hospitals and medical clinics forgo these procedures, the more we risk losing them altogether.
Our current methodology of flattening the curve will not reduce the number of coronavirus deaths; instead, it will simply spread those deaths out over a longer period of time. Therefore, we have only two options before us: (1) We can wait 12-18 months for a vaccine, or (2) we can protect those who are most vulnerable, such as the elderly, those with compromised auto-immune systems, and those with hazardous medical preconditions, and allow those who are stronger and more able-bodied to interact with the virus and develop the antibodies we need to develop a herd immunity.
God designed the human body with the ability to form a natural defense against these kinds of viruses. That natural defense system produces the antibodies we need to fight the coronavirus. The mitigation procedures that we’ve currently set in place actually work against the body’s natural defenses. This is why we prefer the second option.
Finally, we appreciate how Nebraskans have come together in unity during this healthcare crisis. Many deserve our gratitude, especially those doctors, nurses and first responders, who put themselves in harm’s way in order to care for us. Thank you for your faithful service to our communities.
Now it is time to liberate Nebraska…we need to get back to living and making a living.
We, Sen. Steve Erdman (LD47) and Sen. Steve Halloran (LD33), have received numerous emails, phone calls and text messages concerning the coronavirus. They are all very similar in nature. The details may change a little, but the message is usually the same: “If these restrictions continue, my business will close and never reopen.” Cattlemen and feedlot operators share with us their stories about not being able to sell their fattened cattle, and when they do get an offer, they usually lose more than $500 per head.
In this article we will share with you some revolutionary information about how to deal with viruses, including the coronavirus. This information will be difficult for many to accept, but it is the truth. We regret that fear and panic have directed our policies in the past, but a fundamental change is now needed in how we deal with the coronavirus. There is a way back to normalcy, but it does not include waiting for a vaccine, shutting down schools and businesses, and doling out another stimulus package.
We may, by the end of the year, look back and see that influenza has killed more people than COVID-19. While that fact remains to be seen, our nation’s leading experts on COVID-19 are beginning to say similar things. For instance, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated last week, “Although one of the original models projected 100,000 to 200,000 deaths…those numbers are going to be downgraded.” The original models used by Dr. Fauci were flawed because they already had mitigation measures factored into them. To be sure, the Act Now model and the IHME model, which are both based on U.S. data, instead of overseas data, now predict the final death toll to be somewhere around 61,000 deaths.
Because these new U.S. models are downgrading the projected death toll, the question is now being asked about whether federal, state and local governments overreacted to the threat of the coronavirus. One such person is Alex Berenson, a Yale graduate and former pharmaceutical reporter for the New York Times. Before the new U.S. models were released last week, Berenson Tweeted, “This isn’t complicated. The models don’t work. The hospitals are empty. WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT LOCKDOWNS?”
An early-on, more targeted approach to combating the coronavirus would have been a better approach for the country to take rather than the lockdowns that the current mitigation policy calls for. For instance, isolating those individuals who are most at risk, banning large gatherings, and concentrating our efforts on hot spots, such as New York City, are three things which could have been done while the rest of the country continued to go to work and school. Instead, the lockdowns have devastated our economy, set our students back, and made the cure worse than the disease.
The genie has now been let out of the bottle, and there is no way to get her back in. Another ardent critic of the current mitigation policy is Dr. Knutt Wittkowski, former head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design at the Rockefeller University in New York City. Dr. Wittkowski exposed the fact that both China and South Korea had already reached their peak numbers of cases before they began implementing their mitigation procedures. In effect, nature had already run its course before these two countries began their new mitigation policies.
Dr. Wittkowski said flattening the curve is the wrong way to defeat the coronavirus, because it only prolongs the inevitable. According to Dr. Wittkowski, “With all respiratory diseases, the only thing that stops the disease is herd immunity.” Dr. Wittkowski’s interview can found at: https://www.thecollegefix.com/epidemiologist-coronavirus-could-be-exterminated-if-lockdowns-were-lifted/.
Herd immunity is achieved by allowing those who are less vulnerable in society to interact with the disease. According to Dr. Wittkowski, approximately 80 percent of the population needs to come into contact with the virus before herd immunity can be achieved. The population as a whole must develop its own immunity to the coronavirus. Few of these individuals will ever experience symptoms worthy of hospitalization because they lack the preconditions for a serious illness. However, by keeping schools, hospitals and businesses open, but separating the elderly and those with certain medical conditions, herd immunity can be achieved and the coronavirus defeated in about four weeks. As Dr. Wittkowski said about the coronavirus, “… it will go on forever unless we let it go.”
We agree with Dr. Wittkowski’s analysis. The coronavirus will continue to spread across the country, despite our feeble attempts to try to contain it. Herd immunity is the only way to defeat COVID-19 once and for all. Moreover, the current mitigation policies have led to 13 percent unemployment, a 5,000 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a potential 40 percent drop in the GDP, and a two trillion dollar bailout package from the Federal Reserve. Ian Goldin, an economist with the New York Times warned us back on March 16 that the U.S. economy would never be able to survive the coronavirus, and he was right.
If Nebraska continues to operate within its current mitigation policy, civil unrest will eventually ensue. All life is sacred and valuable, but Nebraskans also need to re-open their businesses, go back to work, go back to school, and get the elective surgeries they need. What better time to get elective surgery and recuperate than while businesses are shut down? But, we cannot afford to go another day with this current failed policy. Historically, civilized societies have crumbled from failed economies, leaving them vulnerable to attack from enemies, but they did not dissipate from diseases. You may not agree with our analysis, but we believe this is the conversation we should now be having.
As I write this article this week I am very concerned with the continued struggle that the COVID-19 virus has presented us with. This crisis has affected every person not only in my legislative district, but throughout the State of Nebraska, throughout the United States, and even throughout the world.
Folks have been reaching out to me by phone, email and text messaging about the current situation they are facing. Small business owners are saying if they are forced to close up shop, they may never open again. Agricultural people have contacted me about the sharp decline in commodity prices. So, this week I want to share with you information on how small business owners, farmers, and ranchers may receive some help and answer some of your financial questions. As I have visited with many of you, I have heard the anxiety in your voices and your concerns about our future. Remember, the folks in America and in Nebraska are very resilient! We have dealt with difficult situations in the past and we will continue to fight on into the future. It is my sincere hope that we will soon be able to return to some form of normal life and business. I hope the following information is helpful.
President Trump and the U.S. Congress are providing relief to small business owners, farmers, and ranchers in three different ways through the CARES Act. These three relief programs include the Paycheck Protection Program, SBA disaster loans, and non-disaster SBA loan forgiveness. More details for each of these programs can be found on the White House’s website or by going to www.coronavirus.gov/smallbusiness/. So, what is contained in these three programs?
The purpose of the Paycheck Protection Program is to help employers pay their employees and cover other costs during the coronavirus healthcare crisis. Those eligible to participate in the program include small businesses, non-profits, Veterans Groups, and Tribal Groups with less than 500 employees. Farmers and ranchers who meet the SBA threshold are also eligible. Because the SBA’s definition of a small business is different than the USDA’s definition, more farms and ranches should qualify. Generally speaking, the SBA definition is 500 employees or less or one million dollars in size or less. Loans up to $10 million can be used to cover payroll, paid sick leave, insurance premiums, rent, utilities and mortgage. Those business owners who retain their full staff and payroll up to eight weeks will be eligible for 100 percent loan forgiveness. Business owners interested in taking advantage of the program should contact and apply through their local bank.
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are Economic Injury Disaster Loans which are designed to help small business owners continue operating during the coronavirus pandemic. Those eligible are small business owners, non-profits, Tribal businesses, and Cooperatives. Farmers and ranchers may also qualify. Some businesses may be available for an up-front advance payment, which does not have to be repaid; otherwise, the loans are offered at a long term, low interest rate of only one percent. Those interested in obtaining SBA loans should contact their local bank or call Elizabeth Yearwood in Lincoln at (402) 221-7200 or visit the website of the Nebraska District Office at www.sba.gov/offices/district/ne/omaha.
The CARES Act also includes loan forgiveness on already existing SBA loans. Business owners won’t have to make payments on their already existing SBA loans for the next six months. Those eligible are small business owners who are already participating in the 7(a), Community Advantage, and microloan programs. No action is needed to participate in this program. Payments that become due during the six month period beginning on March 27 will never have to be repaid, and this benefit applies to new borrowers as well.
Remember, we are not in this crisis alone. So, please stay in contact with your friends and neighbors, and especially remember to check in on the elderly. Continue to practice handwashing, surface cleaning and disinfecting, and social distancing, and together we can defeat this invisible enemy.
The U.S. Labor Department announced last Thursday that 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. This was the largest jump in jobless claims in U.S. history. The previous record had been set back in 1982 with 695,000 jobless claims. Without a steady and continuous flow of income, few Nebraskans will be able to survive the coming economic storm and pay their property taxes. Consequently, the property tax deadline of May 1 could not be coming at a worse time for many Nebraskans.
Nebraskans need property tax relief now more than ever before. Because the coronavirus is causing businesses to lay-off employees and Nebraska continues to rank number 2 in the nation for farm and ranch bankruptcies, the financial situation for many families in Nebraska is growing desperate. Even with significant and meaningful property tax relief, economic depression may become unavoidable.
Ever since I came to Lincoln as a State Senator for Legislative District 47, I devoted myself to delivering on property tax relief. I have made property tax relief my number 1 goal, and it remains my highest priority today. I will continue to fight for property tax relief because I know how important it is to our citizens.
The Nebraska State Legislature currently remains in recess indefinitely due to the coronavirus with 17 legislative days left to complete. The city of Lincoln has experienced its first community spread case of the coronavirus and the mayor has limited group gatherings to ten people or less until May 6. This presents a significant problem for 49 Senators who need to meet inside the Norris Chamber at the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln in order to attend to the business of the State. Consequently, the Legislature may have to recess until the restrictions are lifted or until Speaker Scheer can find a creative and innovative solution to the problem.
Whenever the Legislature reconvenes, the issue of property tax relief needs to take center stage. While I have introduced two constitutional amendments to solve the problem of property tax relief during this biennial session, the Revenue Committee has not advanced either LR3CA or LR300CA. It is time for the Revenue Committee to abandon LB974, which is a property tax relief bill which stands no chance of ever passing. Instead, they need to give these constitutional amendments a chance to advance on the floor of the Legislature in the short time remaining. Otherwise, the Legislature will have nothing to show for property tax relief for the last two years of this biennial session.
Where are we at with the battle against COVID-19? Much of the evidence suggests that we are beginning to turn the corner against this virus. So, today I would like to reveal what the evidence is showing, and how we might proceed into the future.
Be careful with what you read and hear in the news media these days, especially about the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. For instance, last week Christina Larson and Michelle Smith, journalists with the Associated Press, quoted scientists as saying that a single infected person could potentially spread the coronavirus to 4,142 others within a single month. However, this figure was calculated using data from China and the Diamond Princess Cruise ship! Consequently, these kinds of statistics are highly questionable because they do not adequately compare to life in the USA, especially life in western Nebraska. Instead, I agree with the Stanford epidemiologist, John P.A. Ioannidis when he said last week about this kind of shoddy research that, “The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable.”
So, what does the evidence actually suggest? One measurable statistic that we can actually use is the number of deaths related to the coronavirus. Two weeks ago there were 100 deaths in the USA due to the COVID-19 virus. Using simple math and actual death statistics, the death rate at that time was calculated to be 19 deaths per every 1000 cases. However, last week the death rate fell to 13.7 deaths per every 1000 cases. In other words, the death rate did not increase; it dropped by 33 percent.
In short, self-isolation is working and the number of positive test cases have begun to plateau. In the state of Washington, for example, the number of new positive test cases has already plateaued, and this occurred in a matter of weeks, not months. Together with isolation and the introduction of two new drugs to treat the coronavirus, we should expect to see other states begin to plateau and then decline sometime within the next few weeks.
The public panic has been more than it really needs to be. For instance, according to the CDC, so far this season there have been 38 million cases of influenza and 23,000 deaths nationally from the flu. Conversely, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center as of 5:00 p.m. on March 20, there have been 17,303 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 213 deaths nationally. Moreover, no deaths have ever occurred in Nebraska. So I have to ask, which is more fatal: The regular strains of influenza or the COVID-19 virus? By the end of 2020 we will likely look back and see that far more Americans have died from the regular strains of the flu than those who have died from the coronavirus, yet no one is talking about how widespread is the flu or how many deaths it is causing.
My intention is not to belittle the risks associated with the COVID-19 virus. Instead, I simply want to point out that there is no reason to panic. The coronavirus remains a serious disease which deserves our full attention. The way to get rid of it is for each of us to continue doing what we have been doing, namely, washing our hands, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and practicing social distancing. If you get flu-like symptoms, self-isolate yourself and call the University of Nebraska Medical Center at (800) 922-0000. In the meantime, keep calm, pray and ask God to help us remove the coronavirus from America and the rest of the world.
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.
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