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(March 29, 2020) - ​On March 28, 2020, Douglas County officials received confirmation that two long-term care residents of the Douglas County Health Center tested positive for COVID-19.  

The residents who tested positive are in isolation in their own private rooms and are being monitored by staff. They are both currently in stable condition.  Families of all residents were immediately notified after confirmation of the positive tests.  

​Douglas County Health Center has worked closely with the infectious disease team at Nebraska Medicine for several years for guidance on the Health Center’s infection control program.

For the past 30 days, the Health Center has also been utilizing and adhering to CDC recommendations related to COVID-19.  On March 10, 2020, all visitors, volunteers, and vendors were restricted from entering the Douglas County Health Center.  All approved staff are screened upon entrance. Staff members have been wearing face masks throughout the building since March 20th.

​The Health Center’s emergency preparedness team has been working tirelessly to ensure education and training has been completed by all direct care staff. All department operations have been changed to accommodate CDC recommendations as well. 

“Protecting the health and well-being of our residents and employees remains our top priority,” said Erin Nelson, administrator at Douglas County Health Center. “Our team continues to be on high alert and will take every precaution possible. On behalf of Douglas County, we can assure the community we are going above and beyond to continue to provide compassionate care to our long term care residents.”

Douglas County Health Center staff will continue to utilize and consult with community partners, the Douglas County Health Department, local governing bodies, and elected officials. 

“Our team will ensure that we are providing our residents, families, and staff the most up-to-date information,” Nelson said.

About Douglas County Health Center

Douglas County Health Center, located at 4102 Woolworth Ave. in Omaha, has proudly been serving the community for more than 125 years. Douglas County Health Center building is home to 235 long term care residents, the Community Mental Health Center, and the Douglas County Primary Health Care Clinic.

 


(March 18, 2020) 

The City of Omaha and the Douglas County Health Department took additional, more restrictive measures Wednesday to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Mayor Jean Stothert signed a proclamation declaring a State of Emergency in the City of Omaha.  City Code allows the order to remain in effect for 72 hours. The Omaha City Council can extend the emergency declaration and voted Tuesday to allow that extension.

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour signed an order limiting attendance at public gatherings, child care centers, and other businesses with walk-in customer traffic.

The diagnosis of the second case of COVID-19 by community spread in Douglas County prompted new actions Wednesday, including the immediate order to close Omaha bars and restaurants until April 30th. Takeout, drive-through windows, and delivery will still be allowed.

Dr. Pour reported a 46-year-old Omaha man tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday.  He became sick with a cough and fatigue last week, was admitted to an intensive care unit on March 15, and tested on March 16. He is no longer in intensive care, but remains hospitalized.

She said he has not left the country or travelled to high-risk areas in the United States, has not had contact with another Covid-19 positive person, and has not attended large public events.  His case is considered “community spread”.

Dr. Pour says he had contact with fewer than three other people so the risk of further exposure to others is low.

The Health Department also reported three additional positive cases, all travel-related. One person travelled to Europe, another to New York, the third to Denver.

There are now 23 positive cases in Omaha; only two people are hospitalized.

The Omaha City Code gives the mayor authority to declare the emergency and take actions “necessary to preserve the health, safety, and property of the citizens of this community”.

“Every one of us understands how difficult it is for everyone in our community,” said Mayor Stothert. “We are trying to prevent and control the spread. We hope this is just a short-term crisis.

Actions permitted by the State of Emergency proclamation include:

  • Prohibit or limit the number of persons who may gather or congregate upon the public highways or public sidewalks, or in any outdoor place, except persons who are awaiting transportation, engaging in recreational activities at a usual and customary place, or peaceably entering or leaving buildings.
  • Establish a curfew limiting the hours when persons may go upon or travel the public streets.
  • Require the closing of cocktail lounges, taverns and bars and prohibit the sale or service of alcoholic beverages in any hotel, restaurant, club or other establishment, and require the closing of other business establishments.

“We have not even discussed curfew,” said Mayor Stothert.

The Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff will enforce the new orders requiring business closings and attendance limits.

“It is our intention to issue a citation for non-compliance, but we are very pleased with compliance from our business community so far,” said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.

Chief Schmaderer and Fire Chief Dan Olsen encouraged citizens to call 911 only for true public safety and medical and rescue emergencies. 

 


(March 15, 2020)

Omaha public libraries and community centers will close Monday March 16 until further notice.

Mayor Jean Stothert made the decision following the first confirmed “community spread” case of COVID-19.

“It’s very important to take this step now to ensure the safety our employees and our citizens who use these public facilities,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

The City of Omaha has 12 public libraries and 13 community centers.  Also closed effective March 16: Hanscom Park Tennis Center, Hummel Nature Center, Koch Family Tennis Center, Motto McLean Ice Arena, and Harry Koch Trap and Skeet Range.  Indoor pools at the community centers will also be closed.

All Community Center and Omaha Public Library programs operated by the City of Omaha and private contractors will be suspended, including the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging senior meals programs at Florence, Camelot, Adams and Montclair.  Participants in this program should contact Meals on Wheels about home meal deliveries. Meeting room reservations at libraries will also be suspended.

All libraries and community centers will be deep-cleaned this week.

At this time, there is no change in the summer camp schedules at Hummel, Hanscom, Zorinsky and Adams. Hummel, Hanscom and Zorinsky camps begin the week of June 1.  The Adams Park camp begins the week of July 6.


(March 14, 2020)

The Douglas County Health Department reports the first local COVID-19 case caused by community spread.

This individual is a woman in her 60s who was reported on Friday, March 13, as a travel-related case. The continuing investigation determined her symptoms appeared before she traveled.

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour explained the woman recently saw her doctor before a planned surgery. She tested negative for both influenza and other respiratory viruses, so her doctor tested her for COVID-19.  Her only symptoms were fatigue and a sore throat. "We're starting to see a variety of symptoms," said Dr. Pour. "Potentially, there are people who have the virus but will not have symptoms."

Dr. Pour said the woman's whereabouts and contacts have been identified, and everyone who may have been exposed has been contacted. She did not attend any large gatherings.  Dr. Pour described her condition as "good".

Governor Pete Ricketts said Friday that two community spread cases in Omaha would result in closing schools for 6-8 weeks, and limiting events and large gatherings to 25-50 people. Governor Ricketts said employers will be excluded. If schools are closed for long periods of time, that decision will be re-evaluated every two weeks.

"These steps are being taken to protect our community," said Mayor Jean Stothert.

Douglas County is taking these additional steps to prevent the spread of the virus:

Effective today, visitors will not be allowed at the Douglas County Youth Center. Earlier this week, visits to the Douglas County Health Center were suspended.

Two additional travel cases have been confirmed in Douglas County. Those are a man in his 50s who traveled to and from Spain, and a man in his 30s who came to this community from Singapore. Both are in isolation but neither man is hospitalized.

The Health Department also is advising the public of an additional potential low-level community exposure. A confirmed travel case first reported on Friday, March 13, was at The Athletic Club, 200 South 31st Avenue,  between 5:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 12. This is a low-risk exposure. Anyone who may have been there at that time is asked to self-monitor for 14 days. That means take your temperature twice a day and watch for symptoms.

Symptoms of the virus include a fever, cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, or develop symptoms, contact your health care provider and tell them how you are feeling. Please notify them of any potential exposure to a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. We ask that you call ahead before you go to the doctor’s office or an emergency room.

Douglas County Health Department epidemiologists will continue contact investigations with everyone who is a confirmed COVID-19 case. The county now has 16 confirmed cases, not including anyone brought to Nebraska Medicine’s Quarantine or Biocontainment Units.


(March 12, 2020)

For the first time in 71 years, the College World Series will not be played in Omaha.  It won’t be played at all.

The NCAA cancelled the College World Series today, and all other winter and spring  championships.

“The NCAA must feel this is the best decision it could make for the student athletes and their families,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “The impact of COVID-19 is going to hurt, but it’s going to hurt every city.”

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the NCAA announced both the College World Series and the basketball championship tournament will be cancelled, “President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships. This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”

Both cancellations will affect Omaha.  Omaha would have hosted the first and second rounds of the basketball tournament on March 20 and 22 at the CHI Health Center.

“It’s a significant blow to Omaha’s economy,” said Mayor Stothert. “The revenue we will lose is not the most important thing, public health and safety is most important.”

Estimates show the College World Series has an economic impact of approximately $70 million to the city’s economy.

“There is a human side of all these cancellations. We have to consider the financial impact on the city, but also the individuals that will be affected,” said Mayor Stothert.

Mayor Stothert said there is still hope the Olympic Swim Trials will proceed as planned this summer.


(March 11, 2020)

Mayor Jean Stothert and Douglas County Board Chairman Clare Duda outlined city and county plans Wednesday to maintain government operations if COVID-19 becomes more widespread and requires extraordinary actions.

“We are diligently working with Douglas County and our health care partners to protect public health and safety,” said Mayor Stothert. “We are working together to lower the risk and reduce the impact to our community.”

Mayor Stothert signed an Executive Order May 6 that requires all City departments to update  existing Continuity of Operations plans to  protect the city’s workforce and help avoid interruptions to services in the event of widespread illness.

Directors have identified  critical services and personnel needed to maintain operations in each department.  The City has procedures and the network capacity so all city employees could work from home if that becomes necessary.

“We are prepared so city government can continue,” said Mayor Stothert.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer has suspended all travel and outside training. The OPD volunteer program is also temporarily suspended. Many volunteers are elderly and most susceptible to the virus.

Additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer for precincts, disinfectant wipes and sprays are ordered.

Each Deputy Chief has identified personnel that can work from home if necessary. No OPD employees are authorized to work from home at this time. 

There has been no change in police response to emergency calls but if the threat becomes more widespread in Omaha, lower priority calls for police service (Priority 3 and 4 calls) could be handled in a different manner.

At this time, the Omaha Fire Department’s response protocol has also not changed.

“Our training, experience and policies and protocols put us in a very good position to keep our members safe and well, while also allowing us to serve our community appropriately,” said Fire Chief Dan Olsen.

Firefighters and medics will wear personal protective equipment depending on the nature of the emergency call.  To care for low-risk patients, OFD will use CDC-recommended gloves, goggles and masks. If a patient is high risk, medics will also wear gowns.

If a firefighter experiences signs or symptoms and has transported a positive COVID-19, or suspected COVID-19 patient, the following steps will be taken:

  • The OFD Medical Director speaks directly with the Firefighter
  • The Medical Director will communicate with doctors at the Biocontainment Unit
  • Together, the doctors will decide if the firefighter should be tested based on the risk of exposure, and the severity of the symptoms

If COVID-19 becomes more widespread in the community, that plan will be re-evaluated.

“When we wear the appropriate level of protective gear, our firefighters are safe,” said Chief Olsen.

Commissioner Duda described the situation as fluid, requiring 24/7 evaluation. “Each of our departments and elected offices maintains a Continuity of Operations plan,” said Duda. “We are confident our departments and offices will be able to properly respond to such an outbreak should it occur.”

Duda announced Douglas County has suspended visits at the Douglas County Health Center, and implemented visitor screening procedures at the Douglas County Youth Center, the Community Mental Health Center and General Assistance.  

This week, Douglas County Emergency Management formed a Unified Command-a group of public agency partners that will work together to develop a coordinated community response. Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour will lead the Unified Command.  Members include law enforcement, Omaha and suburban Douglas County fire departments, Public Information Officers, emergency managers, city and county legal staff and Eppley Airfield police and fire.

The Health Department reported at 10:30am Wednesday that 298 people in Douglas County are self-quarantined, 44 are being actively monitored for symptoms. There are no mandatory quarantine or isolation orders in place.

“We want to use the least restrictive method to stay safe.  People are more than willing to cooperate,” said Douglas County Division Chief Carol Allensworth.

Nearly 400 calls have been made to the Health Department’s information line since Monday.

Metro hospitals have also formed a Unified Command.

“We are well-prepared,” said Mayor Stothert. “People should be responsible but not panic.”

 


(March 8, 2020)

The Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) has received presumptive confirmation of two more COVID-19 cases related to the first case. These presumptive positive cases are family members of Nebraska’s first case, a 36-year-old Douglas County woman.

These two family members had COVID-19 symptoms and have been in self-quarantine since Friday and remain there. Other close contacts of the first case have tested negative for COVID-19.

“We expected this to happen,” Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said. “This demonstrates the importance of contact investigations and shows how well they work.”

The good news is these two newest cases had limited exposure to other individuals in the community. DCHD epidemiology investigators have developed a list of contacts and will be reaching out to them individually. Those individuals will be informed of any health risks and how they can protect themselves and other potential contacts.

These are the second and third cases in Nebraska, other than individuals who were brought to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. Anyone with questions about COVID-19 is welcome to call DCHD’s information line at (402) 444-3400 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Outside those hours questions can be directed to the United Way’s 2-1-1 Resource Hotline.

Public Health officials continue to believe the risk to the general public is low. People are encouraged to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms which include a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

 If you have COVID-19 symptoms, or develop symptoms, contact your health care provider and notify them of your potential exposure to a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. Please call ahead before you go to the doctor’s office or an emergency room.


(March 7, 2020)

Mayor Jean Stothert has directed City departments to update emergency preparedness plans to ensure that city services will continue in the event of a COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Stothert signed an Executive Order on Friday, May 6 that requires all departments to update existing “Continuity of Operations” plans to  protect the city’s workforce and help avoid interruptions to services.

“Public safety and public health are first and foremost. Every department is prepared so city government can continue if that becomes necessary,” said Mayor Stothert

In part, Executive Order S-43-20 reads: “Identifying critical and essential processes and emergency successors is inherent to the success of City government operations during emergencies. Continually updating workplace procedures so that all employees understand their role in the event of a pandemic is essential.  The primary threat to the performance of critical and essential services during a pandemic is high absenteeism.  Preparing and protecting our workforce will help avoid interruptions to these services.”

Friday, a 36-year old Omaha woman tested positive for COVID-19. She is hospitalized in the Biocontainment Center at the Nebraska Medical Center.  The Health Department reported she recently returned from the United Kingdom and there is no indication of community spread at this time. 

Omaha Fire Department medics safely transferred the woman from Methodist Hospital to UNMC Friday night. Medics wore CDC-approved personal protective gear. The patient was transported in an encapsulated pod.

“Our First Responders are highly trained in transporting patients with communicable diseases.   They safely transported not only patients that tested positive for COVID-19, but also the patients with Ebola virus that were treated at UNMC,” said Mayor Stothert.

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour described her as “critically ill, but stable.”

The woman had visited three health care facilities before she was admitted to the Biocontainment Center. As a precaution, 30 health care workers have self-quarantined for 14 days. None has COVID-19 symptoms. 

She also played in a Special Olympics basketball game in Fremont on February 29th. State and local health officials are requesting players, coaches and team staffs to self-quarantine until March 14th.  The Special Olympics event was held at the Fremont Family YMCA at 810 N. Lincoln Avenue.

At a news conference Saturday at the Douglas County Health Department, Mayor Stothert reassured citizens.

“The citizens of Omaha are in good hands,” said Mayor Stothert. “With the leadership and expertise of Douglas County Health Director Dr. Pour and Nebraska Medicine, and the support of the State of Nebraska Health Department, no other city has the training, facilities, and preparedness to respond to this type of virus.”  

Dr. Pour said there are two goals at this time, to contain the virus as long as possible to avoid community spread, and to protect high-risk persons - those with diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, compromised immune systems and the elderly. “At this time, we do not see any community spread. It should be safe to move around as usual,” said Dr. Pour.

Mayor Stothert has scheduled a news conference Wednesday March 11 to provide continuing updates on preparedness plans.  Dr. Pour, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, Fire Chief Dan Olsen, Douglas County Board Chairman Clare Duda, and MECA President Roger Dixon will also attend.

“We will use best practices and follow the CDC recommendations,” said Mayor Stothert. “If you have flu symptoms, please don’t go to the emergency room, call your primary doctor. Doctors will most likely do a flu test first. If negative, a recommendation will be made if a coronavirus test is necessary.”

Sarpy/Cass Health Director Sarah Schram also confirmed Saturday that a 65-year-old woman is also being tested for COVID-19.  She recently returned from international travel.  The Health Department has identified a group of people at Omaha’s Marrs Middle School (fewer than 10) who may have had contact with the woman when she visited the school last week.  A quarantine has not been recommended and OPS is on Spring Break until March 16.

UPDATE: The Sarpy/Cass Health Department reported late Saturday that the test was negative: https://www.sarpycasshealthdepartment.org/sites/default/files/docs/articles/3-7-20%20Negative%20COVID-19%20PR.pdf

The Douglas County Health Department has a hotline available to answer questions about COVID-19, the number is 402-444-3400, Monday-Friday 8:30am – 4:00pm.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:  

NEBRASKA HEALTH DEPARTMENT:  http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx#SectionLink3

NEBRASKA MEDICINE:  https://www.nebraskamed.com/COVID


(March 3, 2020)

Mayor Jean Stothert will continue Town Hall meetings in March and April to present “A Roadmap to Better Streets”.

Mayor Stothert recommended and the Omaha City Council unanimously approved placing a $200 million bond issue on the May 12 primary ballot to fund a pavement maintenance program.

The Town Hall series will provide an overview of street infrastructure needs, what is needed to make long-term sustainable improvements, and options to pay for it. This is the second series of public meetings to explain the need for a bond issue.

“The condition of our streets is a top priority for me and for our taxpayers and I look forward to listening and answering questions,” said Mayor Stothert.  “If voters approve the bond, we will begin work this summer.”

 

MARCH 16                                                               

Saddlebrook Community Center                                                                                      

14850  Laurel Avenue                                                   

6:30pm                                                                        

                                                           

MARCH 26                                                             

Metro Community College South Campus                                                             

Industrial Training Center, Room 120                       

6:30pm                                                                      

                                                                                  

APRIL 1                                                                       

St. Robert Bellarmine                                                          

Mainelli Center                                                         

11802 Pacific                                                            

6:30pm          

              

APRIL 9

Metro Community College Fort Omaha Campus

Institute for Culinary Arts, Room 201A

6:30pm

 

APRIL 14

The Thompson Center

University of Nebraska-Omaha

6705 Dodge

6:30pm

 

APRIL 29

Lord of Hosts Church

5351 S. 139th Plaza

6:30pm

 

                                    


(February 26, 2020)

It’s a great time to be downtown.

Construction is beginning on The Mercantile, the $500 million development on the Conagra campus.

“Today, we recognize, and welcome change, important change on this campus,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “The Mercantile will be an excellent neighbor to the new riverfront parks now under construction and  provides an opportunity to expand riverfront development further south. 

The Mercantile’s first phase of construction on the north side of the campus at 10th and Farnam includes 375 apartments with ground floor retail and amenities including bike storage, co-working space, fitness center, media and game lounge, an outdoor pool, grills and a pet spa. 

Harney Street will be extended two blocks east of 10th Street to create a pedestrian plaza connecting to the Old Market.

Next phases include a hotel, offices and additional residential.

“A transformational project is successful when everyone works together to make our community successful,” said Mark Warner, Conagra's Senior Vice-President of Finance.

“This has been a lengthy, thoughtful, journey to create a mixed use pedestrian friendly development,” said Brad Siderwell, Managing Director at Hines. “We saw the opportunity to create a city-defining project that will last decades into the future.”

The first phase of construction is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

“We are able to achieve our goals together through our partnerships, said Mayor Stothert. Thank you to Conagra Brands and Hines for your support of the new downtown Omaha we are changing together. It’s a great time to be downtown!”