COVID-19 Daily Roundup: Omaha Restaurants Takeout Only, Law Enforcement Screens Callers for Symptoms

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March 18, 2020 - 5:30pm

Health officials announced today all restaurants and bars in Douglas County will be asked to move to takeout only after a second community spread case of COVID-19 was found in Omaha and hospitals in Omaha have formed a virtual unified command to face the COVID-19 crisis in Nebraska.


Latest news & resources: netNebraska.org/coronavirus

Governor Ricketts Announces More Restrictions

Governor Pete Ricketts held a news conference today with representatives from the grocery and restaurant industries.

A second community spread case of the novel coronavirus was discovered in Douglas County. That means all bars and restaurants there will be asked to close their dining rooms and move to takeout or delivery only.

The governor clarified the 10-person limit will be enforceable in Omaha because of a specific order there, but is still voluntary in the rest of the state. If it is not complied with, the government may take stronger action.

Daycares will also be restricted to 10 children per room. A representative for the child care industry noted at the news conference daycares are increasing their cleaning routines.

Representatives for the grocery and restaurant industries stressed there is not a food shortage in Nebraska. Grocery stores are working to fill the supply chain for paper products. More food has been bought than normal, which did create some gaps in the supply chain, but the representative said things should be back to normal. Some grocery stores are leaving the first hour after opening for the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, but the grocery store representative said people can also make that decision voluntarily.

Law Enforcement Agencies Use Personal Protective Gear for COVID-19

The Lincoln Police Department has extra cleaning procedures in place at their precincts. They are also asking people who call for help if they have symptoms of coronavirus or have traveled to areas where the virus is spreading quickly. If the caller is at a higher risk of transmitting the virus, officers will don personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and goggles before responding to the call.

The state patrol is also carrying personal protective equipment. They say it’s too early to tell if there’s a difference in the number of calls the patrol is receiving during social distancing. However, Cody Thomas, public relations director for the Nebraska State Patrol, said Nebraska roads may have been safer on St. Patrick’s Day this year. The patrol usually sees an average of 15-17 DUI arrests on the holiday, but Tuesday there were only four.

“We know that so many restaurants and so many bars have at the very least modified their operations, if not closed. And so by people following those guidelines that have been issued by local, state, and federal authorities on gatherings of 10 or less, we do think that that, probably, last night reduced the number of people who were driving impaired, which is great news.”

Cancer Patients at Higher Risk for COVID-19

People of all ages are being advised to stay home as much as possible to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, people who need regular medical care, including those with cancer, sometimes have to leave the house to receive that care.

Dr. Alison Friefeld, a professor of medicine specializing in cancer care at the Fred and Pamela Buffet Cancer Center, said cancer patients are at higher risk from COVID-19. That risk is even higher for those who have had a bone marrow transplant or who have blood malignancies. Those who are currently being treated for cancer and those over 70 are also at a greater risk. She encourages social distancing, especially as there is currently no vaccine for coronavirus. Friefeld says the cancer center is committed to continuing care.

“Sometimes this is occurring in a tiered basis,” Friefeld said. “That is, where people whose risk is low for advancement of their cancer may have their clinic appointments delayed and rescheduled if we think that their appointment face to face is not absolutely critically necessary, and those patients may also be interviewed by telemedicine techniques.”

For those patients who need things like chemotherapy, surgery, and blood transfusions, doctors are trying to keep everything on schedule. Everyone who visits the center is screened at the door for symptoms of COVID-19, as well as for certain travel history. Those who are at greater risk of transmitting the virus are taken to a separate room and given a facemask while they are screened further.

Bacon Holds Event with UNMC Officials

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center are currently in clinical trials for a treatment for COVID-19. They’re also working with Apple on an app that would help determine when a person needs to be tested for the virus.

Congressman Don Bacon met with leaders at UNMC Wednesday and said the national testing backlog could improve soon

“We’ve had to remove some bureaucratic barriers to that,” Bacon said. “There’s a culture that goes back decades on how to do testing. We’re trying to remove those barriers. But once we can remove those barriers the innovative spirit and know-how comes to the fore. And we’re seeing all over our country innovative ways to do this testing, and right here at UNMC to develop a mobile testing application is incredible.”

Omaha Area Hospitals Work Together

The Omaha Metropolitan Healthcare Coalition helps coordinate cooperation between 25 hospitals, 112 long-term care facilities and more than 700 clinics in the Omaha metro area. Those hospitals have formed a virtual unified command to help deal with the coronavirus crisis. That command is used to share resources.

Justin Watson is director of the coalition, and he said he’s worried about the lack of protective gear for healthcare workers. His organization has actually shared some of its own supply with facilities that are running low.

“I think right now, where you have an event that’s affecting everyone –not just hospitals –long-term care facilities, assisted living, clinics, family practice, and everyone is feeling the crunch, and that’s the issue right now,” Watson said.

Watson said cooperation has been strong so far and hospitals are working together.

Department of Education Says Student Teachers Can Learn from School Changes

Earlier this week the Department of Education asked that all schools work to move online by the end of the week. This means student teachers working to get licensed in Nebraska will likely not be in physical classrooms in the coming weeks.

David Jesperson is public information officer for the Department of Education, and he asked student teachers not to worry about the hour requirements for their student teaching. He said the department has been flexible on other requirements for schools.

“Learning and education and instruction will be continuing,” Jesperson said. “So we recommend that student teachers work with their districts to find out what’s best for them, but they could definitely still continue to report and get some valuable lessons on e-learning and alternative learning environments during this time.”

The department will evaluate student-teacher situations on a case by case basis, and scenarios may vary from district to district across the state.

Latest news & resources: netNebraska.org/coronavirus

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