The Panhandle Public Health District added 19 COVID-19 cases to its total over the weekend.

During a Unified Command briefing on Monday, Scotts Bluff County Health Director Paulette Schnell said one new case was confirmed in Cheyenne County, two in Sheridan County, five in Scotts Bluff County and 11 in Morrill County.

Investigations are still underway in the cases of a Cheyenne County woman and a Sheridan County woman both in their 20s, as well as a woman in her 30s and one in her 40s in Morrill County. Two Morrill County cases, a man in his 60s and one in his 70s are also under investigation.

The remaining Sheridan County case, a woman in her 50s, was determined to be a close contact along with two Morrill County women in their 50s and a teen boy. Scotts Bluff County also had several cases that were determined to be close contacts, which means an individual was less than six feet away another person with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more. Those cases include two women in their 20s, one in her 30s, and a man in his 40s.

The rest of the cases were community spread and included a woman in her 30s in Scotts Bluff County, and, in Morrill County, a woman in her 50s and a man in his 20s, one in his 30s and one in his 40s.

PPHD director Kim Engel said there is concern about the rise in community spread cases, which can’t be traced back to a specific person.

“I wasn’t the one investigating the cases,” Engel said of those in Morrill county. “I know some of them spread from an event. Many are community spread and we can’t figure out the cause … we’re puzzled with this one.”

The Camp Clarke Stampede Rodeo, a Morrill County tradition, is still set to go ahead this week.

“We went through many different methods on how to have a safe event,” Engel said. “Spectators will be asked to sit in groups of eight or less, and six feet apart.”

There will be other changes, she said, but the rodeo is set to take place.

Three Morrill County cases and 12 from Scotts Bluff County were moved from active to recovered. A total of 298 positives have been reported in the Panhandle Public Health District since March 2. Of those, 185 have recovered and 110 remain active.

There have been a total of 33 hospitalizations, with four currently hospitalized. Three elderly Panhandle residents have died as a result of COVID-19.

During the briefing, members of Unified Command shared information about assistance available through the Community Cares Program, which offers direct assistance to charitable and provider organizations who have experienced loss or an increase in expenses.

Three grants are available. The first will be for 501c3 organizations and select provider organizations who are licensed in the state and will consist of a $12,000 onetime payment. The applications for this grant are open from now until July 6 and awardees will be notified by July 15.

The second grant will be a more traditional grant, and will include behavioral health regional authorities and other behavioral health entities. This is a competitive grant and awards will range between $50,000 and $2 million. Applications will be accepted from July 1-8 and will be evaluated by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Awards will be announced around July 15.

The third will be a one-time payment of $250 for in-home childcare providers, $500 for childcare centers and $500 for houses of worship to be used for PPE and cleaning supplies. Applications will be accepted July 6-12 and awards will be announced July 20.

Information and guidelines are available at https://bit.ly/NECOMCARES.

Officials are also reminding individuals and businesses to take precautions and follow quarantine guidelines. Anyone determined to be a close contact must quarantine for 14 days even if they test negative. This means monitoring symptoms, staying home and away from others, and contacting a health care provider.

The public is also encouraged to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“Until we get a vaccine, I think our lives will have to adjust to this new normal,” Engel said.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

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