WAHOO – The first case of COVID-19 in Saunders County was caused by community spread, according to local health officials.

On Wednesday afternoon, Three Rivers Public Health Department announced that the source of infection for the woman in her 50s diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, cannot be identified.

“We can’t trace where she got it,” said Three Rivers Executive Director Terra Uhing late Wednesday afternoon. “That’s how it’s community-acquired.”

This is the same person who was the first person to be diagnosed with COVID-19 in Saunders County, which was announced on Tuesday.

Uhing said the woman, who lives in Saunders County but does not work there, followed all of the protocols health officials set out after the coronavirus showed up in Nebraska. That includes self-isolating and calling ahead to her health care provider rather than showing up unannounced.

“That is the best thing that could’ve happened,” Uhing said.

Once the woman was diagnosed, Three Rivers conducted a thorough investigation. Uhing said they have determined that the woman did not have symptoms when she was in public areas in Saunders County and Omaha.

Uhing stressed that if there was any possibility the woman had exposed citizens of Saunders County, the health department would let them know.

“That would’ve been shared with everyone,” she said.

Community spread is identified in cases where officials are unable to trace the source of the infection. The other designation is travel-related, when a person is exposed while traveling to another state or country.

Uhing said the public needs to be aware that the coronavirus is present in Saunders County.

“We need every person really taking this seriously because it’s here,” she said.

Because of the community spread determination, Saunders County will be placed under a Directed Health Measure by the state starting Thursday, Uhing said. Lancaster and Dodge counties are also included.

A Directed Health Measure means gatherings of more than 10 people in a single space are prohibited. Less than 10 people in a single space where a minimum of six feet cannot be placed between individuals is also not allowed. In the case of a business, the staff is not included in the total number.

The measures also mean that restaurants, bars, taverns and private clubs have to close their public dining areas and can only serve food via carry out, delivery or drive-through.Essential federal, state, county or city operations, public utilities, medical providers and pharmacies and logistics and distribution centers are exempt.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever of 100.4 or higher, cough, sore throat or difficulty breathing. Anyone who has or develops COVID-19 symptoms should contact their health care provider and tell them how they are feeling. Notify them of any potential exposure to a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. Call ahead before going to the doctor’s office or an emergency room.

For more information about COVID-19 visit www.threeriverspublichealth.org or http://dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 hotline is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 402-552-6645. The United Way’s 2-1-1 Resource Hotline is also operational.

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