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UPDATED 10:26 p.m. March 29

Four Corners Health Department and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services have mandated Directed Health Measures in Seward County, effective 6 a.m. Saturday, March 28, through at least Wednesday, May 6, with the goal of limiting community spread of COVID-19.

Four Corners released a statement at 8:42 p.m. March 27, which now prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people, more heavily limits restaurant offerings and makes violations enforceable by law.

According to the Nebraska Attorney General, someone who violates a Directed Health Measure could be cited for a Class V misdemeanor, which includes a fine of up to $100, under Nebraska Revised Statute 28-106.

"Today (March 27) a case of community transmitted COVID-19 was reported in the Central District Health Department region (Hall, Hamilton, Merrick Counties) to our west. To our east, Lancaster County has also had community spread and Directed Health Measures were ordered earlier this week," said the statement, which was signed by Four Corners Health Department Director Laura McDougall.

People in the Four Corners Health District are being tested for the COVID-19 virus, but as of 10 a.m. March 29, no cases had been confirmed in Seward County or any other counties in the district, which also includes Butler, Polk and York counties.

"Because of the Central District situation, DHHS will be issuing Directed Health Measures to be implemented in their district and has decided to include our District (Butler, Polk, Seward and York Counties) in the order. To be clear, at this moment we still do NOT have any lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our District, but as cases of community spread are detected around us, it becomes more probable that it is here as well, but undetected," the statement said.
 
Burt, Cuming, Madison and Stanton counties were added to the measure on March 29.

Two people have died in Nebraska, according to DHHS, as of March 29. One was a man in his 50s from Douglas County, and the other was a woman in her 60s from Hall County. Both had underlying health conditions.

“We send our condolences to both families,” said Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “Unfortunately, from the beginning, we knew there would be deaths from COVID-19 in Nebraska and this underscores the potential seriousness of the disease and the importance of the measures we’re taking as individuals and as a state to help slow the spread of the virus.”

“Susanne and I send our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones today,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts. “I encourage all Nebraskans to keep these families and all families impacted by coronavirus in their thoughts and prayers. This is a reminder for all of us to practice the ten-person rule, exercise good hygiene, and to stay home if you’re displaying flu-like symptoms.”

Under the Directed Health Measure order (click HERE for the full text):
 
1. Gatherings are prohibited; A gathering is defined as any event or convening that brings together more than ten (10) patrons, customers or other invitees, excluding staff, in a single room or single space at the same time, including but not limited to, a school, daycare facility (including in-home facilities), gymnasium, salon, fitness center, auditorium, stadium, arena, large event conference room, meeting hall, theater, library, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. This also includes weddings and funerals, as well as parades, fairs, festivals, concerts and other indoor and outdoor events.
 
Some businesses may remain open, but they're required to follow strict rules (see full text above).
 
2. Elective surgeries and elective procedures are prohibited. For the purposes of this Order, this means a surgery or procedure that is scheduled in advance because it does not involve a medical emergency. Surgeries or procedures that must be done to preserve the patient's life or physical health, but do not need to be performed immediately, are allowed by a case-by-case determination of the medical provider.
 
3. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or who have any of the following symptoms: fever of 100.4 F. or above, cough, shortness of breath and individuals who reside or resided with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or with individuals who have any of the above symptoms shall home-quarantine, unless quarantined in a health care facility, for a period of no less than 14 days, from the date of the positive test or onset of symptoms, per attached Quarantine Directions.
 
For household members of a person under home-quarantine, home-quarantine can be discontinued 7 days after the original person has been released from home-quarantine, however, household members must continue self-monitoring for the above-listed symptoms for an additional 7 days (a total of 14 days).
 
Seward Mayor Josh Eickmeier said the city will begin observing the mandate immediately.
 
"My hope is that citizens understand the severe situation we find ourselves in and that the public would voluntarily comply with this," Eickmeier said. "In the end, it’s all about protecting our citizens."
 
City Administrator Greg Butcher notified the city council after the message was received.
 
"We will be working with the administration, Four Corners Health and Seward Police Department on an enforcement plan. Likely due to the limited staff (in York) of Four Corners Health, enforcement will be up to local law enforcement," Butcher said in an email to the council. "We will start with being as informational as possible and getting info out to restaurants and bars whom will need to stop dine-in service. We will be working over the weekend to formulate further plans."

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