Six more cases of COVID-19 were identified in Nebraska on Wednesday, including the first instance of community spread in Lincoln and Saunders counties.

With that news, Lincoln initiated tougher restrictions on business, similar to Omaha's.

Also among Wednesday's cases were two in Douglas County and one each in Saunders, Dodge and Washington Counties.

The new cases in Douglas County bring the count in the state’s most populous county to 40. The latest cases involve a woman in her 30s and a woman in her 40s. Epidemiologists still were investigating both cases Wednesday afternoon.

The Douglas County Health Department is advising people to take precautions throughout the community to avoid infection with the novel coronavirus. That's because many people infected with the virus have mild or no symptoms.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four out of five people who become ill acquire the virus from people who didn’t know they were infected.

Meanwhile Wednesday, both the City of Lincoln and Saunders County were poised to join the Omaha area in imposing tougher restrictions on businesses and public gatherings to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said at a Wednesday press conference that the city had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by community spread. A case is considered community spread when the cause of transmission is unknown — someone tests positive who hasn’t traveled recently or been in contact with a person known to have the coronavirus disease.

The detection, she said, will trigger a “directed health measure” like that which has already been ordered in Douglas, Sarpy, Washington and Cass Counties.

The order, which can be enforced by police if necessary, requires restaurants and bars in Lincoln to close their dining areas immediately and move to takeout, delivery or curbside-only service until further notice. The measure also restricts alcohol sales to carryout and delivery only. And in Lincoln, like Douglas County, it orders closed barbershops, hair and nail salons and tattoo parlors.

And the Three Rivers Public Health Department said a case announced Tuesday had been confirmed Wednesday as Saunders County’s first instance of community spread. Investigators were unable to determine where the woman, in her 50s, was exposed to the virus.

Three Rivers officials are in communication with state health officials with regard to issuing a directed health measure for the county.

The Three Rivers health agency also announced three new cases on Wednesday:

  • Saunders County: A woman in her 50s who was in close contact with Tuesday's reported case.
  • Dodge County: Its first reported case, a woman in her 40s.
  • Washington County: A woman in her 60s became the county's fifth case. She has been self-isolating at home since March 15.

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