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Police, health department educate public on DHM violations

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 6:54 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - You could receive a citation if you don’t follow the Directed Health Measure.

Hastings police cited nine residents Friday for breaking the DHM. People got together at someone’s house after the South Heartland District Health Department informed them they’d need to quarantine or isolate after being exposed to the coronavirus or testing positive for it.

“The Directed Health Measures are law and if (people) don’t comply then they may be issued citations,” said Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department.

It’s the first time HPD gave anyone a DHM-related citation. Both the health department and Hastings police said their primary goal is to work together in slowing the spread of the virus through education rather than citations and enforcement.

“Unfortunately this is one of those situations where that didn’t work, and hopefully that’s a fluke and we can continue with the positive efforts we’ve made through voluntary compliance,” said Capt. Raelee Van Winkle, Hastings Police Department.

DHM-related violations are a Class 5 misdemeanor and can carry a fine of up to $100.

Van Winkle said HPD isn’t actively seeking out DHM violations.

The department might receive complaints that a person or business isn’t complying with restrictions. In those cases, officers will print out a copy of the DHM and share it with the people in question to help them understand what does or doesn’t apply.

Learning and enforcing the different phases of DHMs has been challenging for law enforcement too.

“Trying to keep up with the laws and ever changing environment that we’re in, that’s always a struggle,” Van Winkle said. “But the COVID pandemic has brought new challenges with that. We’re just trying to stay updated and keep our staff updated so we’re making the right decisions and educating the public on the right thing to do.”

The SHDHD’s four-county area, which includes Hastings, will remain in Phase 3 until August 31.

That means you could receive a citation if you’re told to quarantine or isolate and don’t, have a large event or gathering without approval from the health department, sit in parties of more than eight people at restaurants, funerals or weddings and if staff and patrons at beauty salons and tattoo parlors don’t wear face coverings.

“We’re trying to get ready to open schools,” Bever said. “We want to open them safely. The more large gatherings that we have or numbers of folks that are not complying with any part of the Directed Health Measures, whether it’s related to social distancing and gatherings or related to isolation and quarantine, that just hurts the whole community and hurts us from moving forward.”

Bever said the health department is happy to work with people wanting to host an event to ensure everything complies with the DHM, from family gatherings to block parties.

She said as numbers start to increase in the area, they hope to use the DHM as a way to reduce the spread of the virus.

You can learn more about Phase 3 restrictions on the SHDHD’s website. If you have any questions or concerns related to the Directed Health Measure, you can email covid@cityofhastings.org.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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