Pat Lopez, Interim Health Director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD), today ordered Directed Health Measures that further limit the opportunities for community spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Enforceable restrictions on public gatherings and business operations will be in effect from 8 a.m. Thursday, March 26 through Wednesday, May 6.
The action is in response to the third lab-confirmed case of COVID-19, which was reported yesterday. The male in his 50s became symptomatic on March 11 and is currently hospitalized. LLCHD officials said he has no travel history and is not related to the previous two local cases, so this third case is considered community-acquired, the first case of this kind in Lincoln.
"The directed health measures will present new challenges and ask for new sacrifices. It is important to remember why we are so committed to comply with them faithfully," said Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird. "What each of us does right now is important and has implications for what happens next. Each of us has a heroic role to play in preventing our health care system from becoming overburdened and saving lives."
"We have known that the presence of one or two community-acquired cases would be the trigger for our local Directed Health Measures," said Lopez. "Our public health officials worked with infectious disease specialists at UNMC and the State to identify this as a guideline."
LLCHD will contact the impacted businesses directly with guidance on complying with the measures. As of 8 a.m. tomorrow, the following are not allowed in Lancaster County:
- Gatherings for any reason of more than 10 people in single spaces, including schools; fitness centers and gyms; auditoriums, stadiums and arenas; large event conference rooms and meeting halls; theaters; and libraries. Daycare and childcare facilities will be allowed to operate with groups of 10 or fewer children. If more than one group of children is cared for, each group shall be separated.
- Gatherings for any reason of less than 10 people in single spaces where a minimum of six feet between all individuals cannot be maintained including, but not limited to, tattoo and massage parlors, barbershops, and beauty and nail salons.
- Food and beverage sales at any dine-in establishments including restaurants, bars, taverns, and private clubs are restricted to drive-thru, carry out, and delivery only. This does not apply to food service in health care facilities. Alcohol sales are restricted to carry-out sales and delivery only, to the extent permitted by law. No on-site consumption of alcohol is permitted.
Violating the Directed Health Measures in the Lincoln city limits is a city misdemeanor, subject to six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both. In Lancaster County but outside the City limits, violations are Class III misdemeanors subject to three months in jail, a $500 fine, or both.
Those who observe suspected violations should not call the Police or Sheriff's 911 or non-emergency numbers. Those lines of communication must remain open for emergencies. Those situations should be reported to UPLNK either through the phone app or online at uplnk.lincoln.ne.gov. The initial response to any complaint will be handled by LLCHD. Health officials will provide education to those who need it about why compliance is so vital to our community's safety. UPLNK cases are acknowledged when staff receive and enter them. They are closed after they have been dispatched and investigated.
The City's first confirmed case was reported March 20 and is a 48-year-old Lincoln man who had traveled to Colorado. The second case confirmed the next day is one of his family members.
The Health Department continues to investigate the third case, and officials said the hospitalized man had no close contact in the community that is known at this time. His family members are self-quarantined at home.
LLCHD is now monitoring 177 individuals and reports 148 negative tests and three positives with six cases pending. Nebraska now has 65 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Those who experience these symptoms should self-quarantine and call their health care providers for recommended follow up before visiting. If you need help accessing care, contact the Health Department at 402-441-8006. Do not go to the emergency room unless it is essential.
Those prioritized for testing remain health care workers; public safety personnel; residents and employees of nursing homes and group homes; those attending or working at daycares; and people over 60 or those with underlying health conditions.
Those who have no symptoms do not need to contact a health provider to be tested. Do not go to urgent care, the emergency room, or a doctor's office to get a COVID-19 test. Those test kits and medical personnel must be reserved for individuals in the prioritized categories.
To reduce the spread of the virus, health officials recommend that residents stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing. They also recommend frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.