SHDHD investigating cluster of COVID-19 cases

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Published: Jul. 25, 2020 at 10:28 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported they are investigating a large cluster of cases and exposures associated with multiple events. Some of the cases were reported by SHDHD earlier in the week and some are newly identified in the past two days (Friday-Saturday).

SHDHD is reporting that the cases in this cluster attended one or more of several events, including a large gathering at Lovewell Lake in Jewel County (Kansas) on July 11-12, a private party near Exeter (Fillmore County) on July 15, and Sutton High School Graduation and related private graduation parties on the weekend of July 18.

The positive cases included in this cluster so far are nine Clay County residents, one Adams County resident, two individuals who reside in other health districts, and one individual from another state.

Michele Bever, SHDHD executive director, said that more than 40 close contacts have been identified so far and these individuals were instructed to self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms. Some have tests pending. “This investigation is ongoing,” Bever said. “Unfortunately, because not all individuals were physically distanced at these events and activities, and mask use was not widespread, we do not know how many others may have been exposed.”

“Therefore, anyone who attended these activities and thinks they may have been exposed should contact the health department,” said SHDHD executive director Michele Bever. “If symptoms appear, you should self-isolate and contact a health care provider and the health department to determine next steps. This is crucial in order to stop the spread and protect the most vulnerable in our families and in our communities.”

“This cluster underscores the ease with which the COVID-19 virus can spread from person to person, even when people only have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all,” Bever said. “The risk of bringing the virus back to members of your family, to your co-workers, or to others you may interact with, increases significantly when prevention is not in place.”

Bever noted that gatherings are still restricted according to the state-directed health measures in effect in Nebraska at least through July 31st.  A gathering is any event or convening that brings together more than ten (10) individuals in a single room or single indoor or outdoor space at the same time. “There are overall capacity restrictions and limitations of eight people per any one party at gatherings,” Bever said.

Key prevention actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 include: staying at home if we have any symptoms, even mild symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19; keeping six feet between ourselves and others; wearing a face covering as a barrier to keep our germs from spreading to others, especially when we are unable to be physically distanced; washing our hands frequently with soap and water; and cleaning and disinfecting any frequently-touched surfaces.

“All of us - ALL ages - should practice these prevention actions everywhere we go: at work, at the store, at graduations and sports events, at weddings and receptions, at church and at the fair,” she said. “If people are not staying six feet apart, these are the settings where we see new close contacts and, from that, new cases.”

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