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(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.



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

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