WAHOO – Saunders County has reached double figures in the number of residents diagnosed with COVID-19, including the first pediatric case in the county, as the governor calls for an end to some of the restrictive measures put in place to stop the pandemic.

Three Rivers Public Health Department reported the 10th case in Saunders County on Saturday. The patient was identified as a male in his 50s. He is isolating at home and all of the people who have been in close contact with him have been asked to self-quarantine. They will be monitored by health department staff twice daily during a check for fever and respiratory symptoms.

One day earlier, two cases were identified in Saunders County, including one child and one adult, according to Three Rivers. They were tested during a mass testing event on April 21 in Fremont. In total, 25 confirmed cases in the Three Rivers jurisdiction were identified during the testing event. Twenty-one people from Dodge County tested positive, including 10 children. Two adults from Douglas County also were confirmed to have the coronavirus. All but four of the 94 people who were tested were close contacts of previously lab-confirmed cases.

“This reinforces the importance of self-quarantine for close contacts of confirmed cases. It is essential that individual’s social distance while at home and stay home if they are sick,” the press release said.

On Monday, six more cases in Dodge County were reported, including a male in his teens. All are self-isolating at home, the health department said.

Saunders County Emergency Manager Terry Miller said the mass testing event is the reason for the spike in cases in the Three Rivers area, which includes Saunders, Dodge and Washington counties.

In general, Nebraska remains well below the number of COVID-19 patients originally expected, Miller said. As of Monday, there were 3,028 positive tests in Nebraska and 56 deaths.

“Statewide, from what was predicted back and December and January, we’ve been below in cases and hospitalizations and also deaths,” said Miller.

Saunders County has also come in below expectations when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases in the county. The first case in the county was announced on March 24. A woman in her 50s had tested positive in what the health department called a “community spread” case. On day later a second case was identified in a person who was a close contact of the first case. The second individual was a female in her 50s.

Four cases of COVID-19 were tied to the Saunders County Department of Corrections in late March and early April. On March 31, Three Rivers announced that a corrections employee had tested positive. That employee was a Douglas County resident. The gender and age of the person was not revealed. The next day, the health department announced that another employee tested positive. This time is was a Saunders County resident, a female in her 20s. On April 3, the third case connected to jail was announced. The female in her 50s was also an employee who lives in Saunders County. The fourth case was announced on April 5. A female resident of Dodge County who is in her 20s has tested positive.

Miller said the fact that the coronavirus did not spread to the inmate population was a result of the situation being handled promptly.

The possibility of an outbreak in a facility with close quarters, like a jail, is definitely on the minds of local officials. Miller said the biggest threat in the area is at the assisting living facilities and nursing homes where the elderly reside.

“You could see a lot of illnesses and possibly deaths there,” he said.

But he added that local elder care facility operators are taking a lot of precautions to guard against an outbreak.

More testing is being promised by the state as supplies and resources increase. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports that the state can handle 1,000 tests a day and that capacity continues to grow.

“Widespread testing for COVID-19 is a critical tool in reducing the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Gary Anthone, director of public health and chief medical officer for DHHS. “Additional testing helps public health officials and health care providers to identify COVID-19 hotspots and reinforces the need for self-isolation to those who test positive as a way to decrease the risk of transmitting the virus to others.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts is asking all Ne-

braskans to take an online assessment called the #TestNebraskaChallenge at TestNebraska.com. The five-minute assessment will help identify where testing needs to occur in the state. Testing for the program will begin sometime this week and will help better identify cases and who needs to be isolated.

The entire state had been placed under Directed Health Measures (DHM) that limited social gatherings to 10 people or fewer and emphasized social distancing between people at gatherings. The end dates for these DHM vary as some local health departments, counties and cities have enacted their own measures.

The governor announced last week that some restrictions on social gatherings and business operations will be eased as of May 4.

Places of worship will be allowed to hold services with certain restrictions. Restaurants will be allowed to open their dining rooms as long as the occupancy rate is under 50 percent and all parties are seated at least six feet apart. Only six people can dine together at a table. Self-serve buffets, salad bars and bar seating will not be permitted. Bars that do not serve food will be limited to carry out and delivery. Childcare facilities will be able to have up to 15 children per room or space starting May 4.

The symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever, cough, sore throat, severe fatigue, loss of taste and smell and difficulty breathing.

For more information about COVID-19 visit www.threeriverspublichealth.org, http://dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus or call United Way’s 2-1-1 Resource Hotline.

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