Southeast District Health Department recommends masking to curtail the transmission or contain coronavirus

Sheriff Hardesty, Chairman of the Board, called to order the Richardson County Board of Health meeting at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.   Sheriff Hardesty, Chairman of the Board and Dr. Allan Tramp, the appointed physician/medical advisor and the Secretary, Mary L. Eickhoff, Richardson County Clerk, were present.

Several persons from different agencies and departments requested to participate in the meeting and those present were:  Grant Brueggemann, Executive Director, SE NE Health Department; Kathy Messner Clinical Care Mgt—Infection Control from Community Medical Center; Brian Kirkendall, Richardson County EMA Director; and County Attorney, Doug Merz; County Board Chairman.   

Grant Brueggemann of the Southeast Nebraska Health Department provided an update on the coronavirus pandemic in the SE NE area.   

As of Wednesday, July 15, 2020, there were 21,717 positive cases confirmed in Nebraska since the pandemic began and 286 deaths.  Southeast Nebraska Health Department has had 48 cases with one of those resulting in death.

“We’re starting to see a slight increase in the number of new cases compared to our running 14-day average. Our 14 day running average is about nine and a half cases, where as three weeks ago, on Monday, June 29, was at six,” said Brueggmann. 

Brueggemann reported that “Test Nebraska” will be establishing permanent testing sites and the Falls City Community Medical Center submitted an application. 

“I don’t know if I can comment on the time frame, but unfortunately state contracts take a little time. I know they’re working on them,” said Brueggemann. 

With the increase in the positive cases in Richardson County, the Southeast District Health Department recommends that masking should be promoted as it’s one way to curtail the transmission or contain the virus and continue to practice social distancing. 

“I’m recommending along with a lot of health departments is that masking be promoted,” said Brueggmann. “Yes I encourage masking, social distancing and those other non pharmaceutical interventions. We’re far from being out of the woods yet.”

With more and more events happening and public congregation of people, maintaining the practice of social distancing, wearing masks and thorough hand washing as public practices will assist in lowering the disease burden. With an increase in the number of travelers coming through the area now, which definitely played a part in some of the most recent cases, we all still need to be very vigilant on the public practices to maintain a lower disease burden.   

The Southeast District Health Department has been working with the schools to encourage students and faculty to wear masks when schools begin, but that decision is ultimately up to the school district. The Southeast District Health Department staff are helping with some of the school plans, creating the risk assessment for the districts in each county, preparing a color-coded risk factor chart—green, yellow, orange and red, to assist with the type of risk factor on where we are at in each county anticipating that this will help the schools to see what they need to implement based on their plans.  This information will be sent out to the schools soon.   

‘I do what to emphasize that the community, we need to continue to practice the social distancing, proper hygiene and masking,” said Brueggmann. 

He also reported that the current State of Nebraska Department directive health measure states that events that will have an attendance of 500 or more must submit a plan for approval to the local health departments. That includes any event or venue indoor or outdoor to hold a capacity of 500 people. This is separate from the rated capacity limitations; if the event or venue can hold 500 people, a plan must be submitted to the SEDHD for approval.   Results from National labs are about a five-day turnaround, with “Test Nebraska” being about two to three days, which has increased in the past week from about 26 hours.

Brian Kirkendall, EMA Director, did not have any current update on work done by the Richardson County COVID-19 Planning Committee.

Kathy Messner of the Community Medical Center reported that there are currently no positive cases in the hospital.  They continue to do drive-thru testing with results having been received within 24 hours.   Testing supplies and personal protective equipment is currently in adequate supply.

Chairman Hardesty tentatively scheduled another meeting for August 5, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. 

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