Two cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Washington County
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Two cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Washington County

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The Three Rivers Public Health Department confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19 in its jurisdiction and gave updated guidelines for businesses on Monday.

The confirmed cases were a man and woman in their 60s living in Washington County, according to a press release. The residents have been in self-isolation since Wednesday, March 18.

“They were out of state and they traveled to one of the hard-hit areas,” Three Rivers Executive Director Terra Uhing said. “And so we know exactly where we believe they received it, so it was travel-related, and not community-acquired.”

Three Rivers, whose jurisdiction also includes Dodge and Saunders counties, completed contact investigation and notified those identified as close contacts, who will self-quarantine and be actively monitored twice daily by public health officials.

The community exposures to the coronavirus, which are considered low risk, occurred at:

  • Family Fare, 238 Eighth St., in Blair on Sunday, March 15, from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
  • DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 1434 316th Ln., in Missouri Valley, Iowa, on Monday, March 16, from 1:30-3 p.m.

“The good thing is, each of our cases were able to go into quarantine last week,” Uhing said. “We’ve done a thorough investigation, and we put in there where we truly believe any low-community risk would be, and I really want to state that I think it’s low.”

Three Rivers recently released approximately 150 people from a weeklong self-quarantine on March 14 after a 36-year-old Omaha woman who attended a basketball game in Fremont last month later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The department tested 12 individuals, all of whom came up negative. The event had one other case test positive, with one staff member at the event from Douglas County.

Uhing said Three Rivers has received test results from the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory and would notify the public immediately if they found a positive case.

“We started to get some of those test results today, but we don’t even have a fraction of them in our system as of yet,” she said.

Three Rivers also recommended business places to follow several instructions, including

  • posting a sign on the door disallowing anyone with a fever, coughing and/or a sore throat;
  • discouraging workers with underlying medical conditions from coming to work;
  • avoiding using public restrooms and considering closing them;
  • frequently disinfect surfaces, including countertops, doorknobs, and debit card machines multiple times a day;
  • wearing gloves or using hand sanitizer when handling money, insurance cards or payment cards or limiting to checks or online pay for purchases; and
  • having a strict hand-washing policy for all workers.

Three Rivers recommended gas stations to limit people inside the store to 10 customers at a time and encourage customers to pay at the pump and use anti-bacterial wipes to clean the gas pump handle and keypad.

Pharmacies should also encourage drive-thru or delivery, and banks should encourage online banking and convert to drive-thru only, Three Rivers said.

Three Rivers recommended restaurants to move to drive-thru, curbside pick-up or delivery after closing the dining room. Hand sanitizer should be used before and immediately after a delivery.

Businesses that provide products or services that are not “truly essential” at this time should consider temporarily closing, moving to online interactions and rescheduling appointments.

If an individual in the workplace develops symptoms while at work, they should immediately remove themselves and self-isolate, according to Three Rivers.

If the symptoms are mild, a worker should care for themselves at home and self-isolate until seven days after the symptoms started and when they are 72 hours symptom-free, which means there are no lingering symptoms and no medications taken to suppress a fever or cough.

Three Rivers also recommended guidelines for travel as well. Those returning from any international travel should self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

For residents returning from travel outside Nebraska, public interactions should be limited and strict social distancing should be practiced if they utilized public transportation, including airplanes, trains or buses.

All travelers should continue to remain home and self-monitor for symptoms, Three Rivers said.

For more information or to screen for testing, contact Three Rivers at 402-727-5396.

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