Local health offical gives COVID-19 update

Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 11:55 AM CDT
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The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has topped 185,000 worldwide. That's according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

Just in the United States, cases have reached over 4,600 with more than 80 confirmed deaths. Nebraska sits at 18.

To slow the spread of COVID-19, government and health officials are now urging people to practice social distancing.

"We can all do our part to make a difference in our communities. This virus spreads from human-to-human and if we aren't close together, it can't spread," said South Heartland Health District's Michele Bever. "So what we're trying to do is reduce the curve of spread so that not as many people are impacted. That would help us weather it and we'll also help reduce the impact on the healthcare system."

Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities increase the risk for others. So how do you do your part to slow the spread of the virus?

According to the president's guidelines:

- work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible

- avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people

- avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts

- avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips and social visits

- do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance

- practice good hygiene: wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, avoid touching your face, sneeze or cough into a tissue, disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible

During an interview Tuesday on Local4 Today, South Heartland District Health Department's Michele Bever said as of right now, there are no confirmed cases in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.

"Once the testing became available in the state, there were tests available. The providers started ordering when there was suspicious or travelers that had gone to certain countries and we have done some testing in our district."

She is encouraging people who have traveled to limit their public interactions and self-monitor for symptoms.

"If people don't do this for themselves, do it for the more vulnerable," Bever said. "You want to protect them."

As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, we wanted to help you understand the importance of taking this pandemic seriously.

While some say COVID-19 is just the flu, that's not the case.

Bever said the seasonal flu is caused by the influenza virus while COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus. She said there have been other coronaviruses before but not this one. This one is new.

"We haven't seen it before. There's no vaccine," she said.

She said there's not enough kits to test everyone who is not symptomatic. Adding that for a large percentage of people, they may only feel minor symptoms, but that doesn't mean you aren't exposing others.

Bever said if people follow the methods/guidelines that have been put in place, it will reduce the spread and eventually the virus will have no where to go.

If you have cough, shortness of breath or any other symptoms, you should quarantine immediately and call by phone your healthcare provider or the health department to determine your next step.

She adds that companies will need to work on new policies to address how employees can work from home as well as revise for sick leave and changes.

"These are proven practices that help slow pandemics," Bever adds.

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