Hastings area COVID numbers down, but caution still required.

Local authorities were encouraged by the downward trend of Coronavirus in the Hastings-based South Heartland Health District, but said that wearing masks and following other virus precautions was still very important. (SOURCE: KSNB)
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) The Hastings area is moving in the right direction in regard to COVID-19, but local leaders say wearing masks and social distancing is still required and very important.

During a video press conference Friday morning Executive Director Michele Bever of the South Heartland District Health Department said that only 25 new cases had been reported in the last week in the district coverage area of Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties. There were four deaths, all in Adams County. Bever said that of the people tested in the last week, only six per-cent were positive as opposed to a nine per-cent rate the previous week. Bever said that the infection rate has been down for five consecutive weeks.

President Eric Barber of Mary Lanning Health Care said they had only one COVID-19 patient in the hospital as of Friday.. He also reported that one patient had died. Barber said, "I think we have successfully flattened the curve."

Adams County Emergency Manager Ron Pughes said that a long-time EMS volunteer from Juniata had died because of the COVID virus. Pughes explained that first responders, some of whom haven't seen their children in weeks, are on the front-lines and are vulnerable to the virus.

That, in part, is why Pughes, Bever, Barber and Hastings Mayor Corey Stutte said it's still very important that everyone in the district wear masks when in public, practice social distancing, wash their hands, and wipe down surfaces at home and at work.

Stutte, while praising Hastings citizens for their attention to the guidelines, also noted that during a Thursday visit to a Hastings grocery store, he estimated only half of the customers were wearing face masks. Face masks are recommended to prevent spread of the virus from the person who's wearing the mask to people with whom they come in contact.

Bever and Stutte noted that the South Heartland district was in phase one of less restrictive Directed Health Measures (DHMs) and would be until the end of the month. The district will be in phase two starting June first, which will further loosen restrictions. Stutte said that city officials would be studying the phase two recommendations for what impact they would have on city operations.

Bever also reinforced the need for more testing. She said testing will be available in Hastings May 26 and in Clay Center May 27. People who want to be tested can go to the TestNebraska website to fill out a screening survey. If a test is indicated, you will receive a message registering you for a test at a near-by location.