With a total of six COVID-19 cases in Kimball County, state epidemiologists have issued advice that people in the community monitor themselves for symptoms or stay at home.

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Earlier this week, a man in his 50s had been hospitalized after testing positive. On Wednesday, officials announced a woman in her 40s and a man in his 50s have been confirmed to have the coronavirus. On Thursday, more positive results had been returned Thursday afternoon, Kim Engel, Panhandle Public Health District director, said. Those persons have been identified as a woman in her 40s, and two men in their 60s. The five individuals are in isolation or quarantine at this time. 

After each of the positive results, investigators research the places where persons who have tested positive may have been and help determine possible contacts who may need to be quarantined.

Locations of possible exposure in the cases from Wednesday have been announced.

Additional locations will likely be announced as the result of the three new cases. As locations are announced, anyone who may have been at those locations is advised to self-quarantine. To date, locations have included the local grocery store, a local restaurant and even a local church in the Kimball community, just to name a few.

When the state epidemiologists saw the list of locations in the community from the latest investigation, Engel said they advised: “If you live in Kimball County, you should consider that you are at high risk for exposure already,” she said. “Anyone in Kimball County should be monitoring themselves for symptoms twice a day.”

The recommendation is that residents of Kimball County should check their temperature twice a day and monitor for symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough and sore throat. Anyone developing symptoms should self-isolate from their family and contact their health provider.

If possible, Kimball County residents should stay home.

“Staying at home is the best way to protect yourself,” Engel said.

For those close contacts of the individuals who have tested positive, they are quarantining. One of the persons, a woman working in the administration of the Kimball Health Services, is among the persons who have tested positive. However, PPHD officials said that she worked in a separate building from health services.

Engel said it is a concern that people who are asymptomatic could put others at risk.

“What we know is that this virus is ornery and you can be shedding it two days before you have symptoms,” she said.

Paulette Schnell, Scotts Bluff County Health, says that to date, 184 people have been tested in the Panhandle since the beginning of March 1. On Thursday, 24 tests remained pending results. In addition to the Kimball cases, three people in Scotts Bluff County have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Also on Thursday, PPHD officials hosted a call for businesses about COVID-19. Jessica Davies, assistant health director, said that discussion was had about encouraging people to work remotely. If people have to go into the office or work location, strategies such as scattering out work locations, frequently disinfected highly-touched areas and even staggering work shifts “so that we do not have entire workforces exposed (to the coronvirus)” were recommended.

There was some discussion about whether or not employers should be requiring doctor’s notes from employees who have had to quarantine or have been ill, even with other illnesses. Davies and Schnell said that requiring a note from employees would be difficult, at this time.

People are being told to self-quarantine if they have symptoms, but they may not be able to be seen by a provider. People need to call before they come and the basic advice for those suffering mild symptoms is to stay at home for seven days from the onset of symptoms or three days without a temperature. The temperature should not be brought into control with the aid of medications to qualify for returning to work or out of self-quarantine.

“We need to be careful,” Davies said of requiring doctor’s notes. “We don’t want to overwhelm our health systems in that way. We want to direct them accordingly.”

A directed health measure for the 11 counties of the Panhandle and Grant County is in place until May 11. PPHD officials repeated travel warnings - that people traveling outside of the area should self-quarantine. Those traveling into the state are also asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. On Thursday, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission announced it was closing campgrounds and other facilities to overnight camping starting this weekend.

People can continue to go to the grocery store and other essential locations. However, Davies said, the governor has shared advice “about being smart” when shopping, such as only one person going into the story, getting what you need and leaving, and staying six feet apart.

Anyone interested in more information about coronavirus can visit Panhandle Public Health District, www.pphd.org.

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