News Release:

[Columbus, NE] – Today, March 18, 2020, based on imminent and looming epidemiological risk, ECDHD strongly recommends that all schools within their four-county health district (Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte) close. On Tuesday, March 17, all three Columbus area school districts (Columbus Public Schools, Lakeview Community Schools, and the Scotus Central Catholic parochial system) agreed to close through April 3, with a plan to review on-going closure at that time.

It is also ECDHD’s strong recommendation that childcare centers follow suit and close by Friday, March 20, 2020, in accordance to what is being done across the state in other health districts. For those childcare centers that wish to remain open, they should consider the 10-person restriction guidance.

In addition to schools and daycare facilities, ECDHD also strongly advises that local long-term care facilities implement follow national Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guidelines and restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. In those cases, visitors will be limited to a specific room only. Facilities are expected to notify potential visitors to defer visitation until further notice (through signage, calls, letters, etc.).

These recommendations were determined by one identified case of community spread and multiple instances of community exposures within the greater economic region that includes Douglas County. Additionally, in accordance with the guidance of Nebraska Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt, it is ECDHD's recommendation that all schools within the ECDHD health district cease face-to-face instruction by Friday.

The decision to close schools and daycares was not undertaken lightly. It was made after hours of consultation with education officials at the state and local level, as well as ongoing monitoring of the increase in COVID-19 cases in close proximity to our counties. ECDHD is fully aware that our recommendations carry economic and personal costs for thousands of persons in our jurisdiction. However, COVID-19 is easily spread from person-to-person, and it is not safe for large groups of people to gather. The only way to slow the spread of disease, increasing the medical community’s ability to treat those infected, is to request that children and adults follow the advice of health authorities and limit their contact with other persons, in large or small groups. Locations such as shopping malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, laser tag or other arcades, and community centers should be avoided.

Persons who believe they need to self-report possible exposure to COVID-19 should call ECDHD. For English, dial (402) 562-8960; for Spanish, dial (402) 562-8963. Self-reporting is only for persons who meet certain criteria.

Persons should self-report if:

• They have been in close contact with a person or persons who have confirmed case(s) of COVID-19; OR

• They have traveled to one of the areas on the CDC Level 2 or 3 Travel List. (As of this writing: China, Europe, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, or the states of California, Colorado, New York and Washington). OR

• They have been on any cruise ship.

Those who need general information about COVID-19 should call 2-1-1 or the NE Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Information Line at (402) 552-6645. While there is currently no vaccine or other medical treatment for COVID-19, there are a few things anyone can do to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:

• Practice social distancing. Stay 6 feet away from the person or persons next to you.

• Avoid close contact with sick people and stay home if you are sick. • Wash your hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Cover your nose and mouth when you cough with your elbow or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Sources of additional information for schools and daycares may be found here:

Sources of additional information for older adults may be found here: ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html