Mass testing

DEMONSTRATION: Airman First Class Katlin Lawver and Tech. Sgt. Tyler Fredrickson demonstrated how a test kit for COVID-19 is packaged during a mass testing event at Saunders County Fairgrounds in Wahoo on Monday. (Staff Photo by Suzi Nelson)

WAHOO – Nearly 200 tests for COVID-19 were administered on Monday at the Saunders County Fairgrounds in an event that was not announced until the day before.

The testing event was conducted by the state Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Army and Air Force National Guard units and Three Rivers Public Health Department.

Terra Uhing, executive director for Three Rivers, said the testing was done in Wahoo because the number of people with the virus has expanded.

“We had an increase in positive cases in the Wahoo area and Saunders County in general in the last week and there was a need,” she said.

Seven more cases of COVID-19 were announced in Saunders County since May 13 for a total of 23, according to Three Rivers. The most recent cases included three males and four females, all between the ages of 32 and 64 years of age. Two of the 23 total cases are children, Uhing said.

There were 200 tests available on Monday, and 195 were administered, Uhing said. The tests are sent out of state and the results will be back around Friday.

Uhing said she did not know about the testing event until last Friday, and her staff worked quickly to put everything in place, which was a huge accomplishment.

“I’m very proud of that,” she added.

Saunders County Emergency Manager Terry Miller helped find a location at the fairgrounds, using livestock pens where the persons administrating the tests could be under cover and vehicles could drive through safely. The tests were conducted as the subjects remained in their cars.

Testing was open to all residents in the Three Rivers jurisdiction, which includes Saunders, Dodge and Washington counties. Those wishing to be tested did not have to exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, which may include fever, cough, sore throat, severe fatigue, loss of taste or smell or difficulty breathing.

The tests involved a swab at the end of a long, thin metal stick. The swab was inserted into the nasal cavity and then encased in a vial of saline solution. The test was then put in a sealed plastic bag.

Mass testing events like the one in Wahoo are not advertised in advance, Uhing said, but scheduled quickly when a need presents itself. Three Rivers is working with local emergency managers, hospitals, county, city and village officials everyday as they deal with the pandemic.

Another mass testing event will be held in the next few weeks, but Uhing did not know when. The next one will be in conjunction with the Test Nebraska initiative, which is separate from the testing that was done on Monday, she explained.

Uhing noted that the relaxation of some of the Directed Health Measures allowing restaurants, salons, barber shops and other facilities to open with limitations, does not mean the public should take advantage of the situation.

“Just because it’s opening, doesn’t mean you have to go out and about,” she said.

Uhing suggested anyone who is sick should stay home, and people should continue to practice social distancing. But that can be difficult for some.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people have a hard time with that thought process,” she said.

The coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, is still a mystery to doctors and scientists, making the situation continually a changing one, which is why caution must still be observed.

“The science is moving, but not quickly,” said Uhing.

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