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Area agencies plea with residents to wear face masks amid COVID-19 pandemic
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Area agencies plea with residents to wear face masks amid COVID-19 pandemic

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For many years, Nebraska’s slogan was a simple one: “Nebraska. The Good Life.”

Over time, that was replaced by other mottos, including “Nebraska Nice” and “Nebraska: It’s not for everyone.”

Whatever the slogan, the idea behind it was always the same – that Nebraska is a special place. A place where people work hard, help each other and try to do the right thing. A state where people care for, and about, their neighbors.

Our hope is that this letter inspires us to come together as one Nebraskan community so we can tackle the challenges in front of us, and ensure the safety and health of our neighbors.

Now more than ever, we need to work together to make sure our hospitals are not overwhelmed, and that elective procedures can continue, and that our young people can continue to participate in in-person classroom instruction. We need to work harder to save lives and reduce the preventable deaths due to COVID-19.

After a relatively stable summer, COVID-19 cases are now beginning to surge in Nebraska. As this is being written, in our four counties:

• There are 12 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and three ICU beds available.

• Several area COVID-19 patients have been transferred to other, larger, medical facilities.

• There are eight ventilators available.

• In the past week, 106 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed.

• One-third of the total number of deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in the last 14 days.

We are seeing a similar trend at the state level. In Nebraska:

• Hospital bed availability is at 26% and hospitalization rates have reached an all-time high.

• ICU bed availability is at 24%.

• In the past 14 days, 8,335 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified. In other words, 15% of the total number of positive cases in Nebraska have occurred in the past two weeks.

This rise in cases and the associated use of health care resources, is happening in conjunction with the start of the flu and cold season. The current surge, combined with these two seasonal illnesses which can share COVID-19 symptoms, has the potential to create what could best be described as a perfect storm for overwhelming our health care system.

In order to avoid this scenario, it is absolutely necessary that people avoid the “Three Cs” of COVID-19 transmission: crowded places, close contact and confined spaces. People are exposed to COVID-19 at work, or during social events like weddings, birthday parties, or other celebrations. Those exposed people then go on to infect people they live or come in close contact with. By reducing these exposures, we can reduce the spread.

Preventing the spread of the virus depends on each one of us. We just need to do simple things to help:

• Wear a mask whenever you are in public. Wearing masks has been shown to be an effective way to help stop the spread of COVID-19. When two people are wearing masks, the chance of spreading the virus is minimal.

• Frequently wash your hands, using soap and water, for a minimum of 20 seconds.

• Use hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

• Frequently clean shared spaces.

• Maintain a distance of at least six feet from anyone outside your household.

People who are quarantined or self-isolating should take the following steps to prevent or limit the spread of COVID-19:

•Stay home except to get medical care.

•Separate yourself from other people in your home.

Many of you are already doing these things. Thank you. You are making a difference. But to reduce the rapid spread of the disease, we need EVERYONE to do their part to keep others safe.

Wearing a mask is not a political issue. Wearing a mask is a public health issue.

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Wearing a mask is the best way:

•To prevent your friends, neighbors, and loved ones from becoming sick with a virus that has infected more than54,000 of our fellow Nebraskans and caused the deaths of 530 of them.

•To ensure that schools are able to offer in-person classes.

•To have businesses open and operating normally.

•To continue to have elective surgeries and other procedures at our hospitals and surgery centers.

•To prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed.

Over the years, we have seen how people in our state responded to challenging times. How they cared for one another after tornados devastated entire communities. How they worked together after floods destroyed thousands of acres of farmland, along with entire towns and villages. We are asking you to once again show that same level of resolve and care for your neighbors. This is not a time for division. Meeting this challenge requires a unified effort, one that demonstrates the true spirit of Nebraska. We need to come together, care for each other and do the right thing. Please, wear a mask.

Albion Fire & Rescue

Boone County Health Center

Centro Hispano

CHI – Columbus Clinic

CHI Health Schuyler

City of Columbus

City of Schuyler

Colfax County

Colfax County Emergency Management

Columbus/Platte County Emergency Management

Columbus Children’s Healthcare

Columbus Community Hospital

Columbus Family Practice

Columbus Medical Center

Columbus Urgent Care

East Central District Unified Area Command

East Central District Health Department

Genoa Medical Facilities

Good Neighbor Community Health Center

Inpatient Physician Associates – Columbus

Platte County Attorney’s Office

Platte County Sheriff’s Office

St. Edward Fire and Rescue

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