163 in quarantine, but no confirmed cases in Seward County, health district

The Nebraska total of confirmed COVID-19 cases is up to 81.

None of the cases have been confirmed in the Four Corners Health District, which covers Seward, York, Butler and Polk counties, but Four Corners Director Laura McDougall said the department is issuing tests for people on a limited basis.

So far, 15 people in the district have been tested for COVID-19 with negative results.

As of 1 p.m. March 26, community spread has begun in Omaha (2 cases), Lancaster County (1 case), Saunders County (1 case) and Sarpy County (1 case). Community spread is when a person contracts the virus, but the health department is unable to track where they picked it up.

“Things are starting to heat up a little bit and spread in our direction,” McDougall said during a conference call with Seward County stakeholders March 26. “At this time, we have 163 people in our four counties that we are monitoring for symptoms or we're monitoring them because they're isolating. We do expect some of those people to go off of monitoring or quarantine this weekend. Some were returning from spring breaks, so they're hitting their two weeks.”

McDougall said changes in testing and diagnoses have changed in the past few days. Medical providers are now issuing “presumed positive” diagnoses of COVID-19 without giving confirmative tests.

“Medical providers have been encouraged to diagnose cases if they're negative for influenza and colds, if they have all the symptoms,” McDougall said. “They can clinically diagnose without a lab test.”

That, she said, is because of a shortage of tests. Though test production is ramping up, Nebraska lab facilities are only able to process between 100 and 200 tests per day right now, so even if more people were tested, the results may not be known for several days.

A person given a “presumed positive” diagnosis for COVID-19 is then instructed to go home and self-isolate, unless they are in need of serious medical care. Those patients are hospitalized.

Once a confirmed or presumed positive diagnosis is given, medical providers are asked to contact the health department so it can begin notifying and monitoring others who have come into contact with the diagnosed person.

“If it truly is a case of COVID, we want to make sure we're stopping the spread of it,” McDougall said.

The presumed positive cases are not being recorded as part of the state's case total.

McDougall said what Nebraskans are doing is making a big difference on slowing the virus' spread.

“You can tell by the numbers in Nebraska. We were able to put some of our non-pharmaceutical interventions in place early compared to some of the other places who are experiencing large numbers of this. I thank everyone for their efforts in trying to do that,” she said.

While people are working or learning from home to follow social distancing guidelines, McDougall said physical activity is important, and people should go outside.

“Go for walks. Get some physical exercise. Enjoy the fresh air. It's not only good for our physical health, but it's good for our mental health,” she said.

In doing so, though, people should walk in ones or twos and not gather into groups, leaving at least 6 feet between each person, according to health department guidelines.

McDougall said the state legislature approved $38 million to provide personal protective equipment, like masks, gloves and gowns, to first responders and health care professionals.

“We're expecting guidance today that we're going to forward on to our partners. We'll need to be placing orders for what we expect to be needing in the next month or so,” she said.

Legacy Fund

Seward County Legacy Fund taking donations for local COVID-19 relief

On March 24, the Legacy Fund for Seward County announced the establishment of a specific fund to assist in meeting the immediate needs of Seward County residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The purpose of the account is to raise funds to support the work of community-based organizations in Seward County to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable residents of Seward County.

“This is an opportunity for us to address an immediate need through local partnerships with our community governmental partners, our local school systems, and other community organizations that need additional financial resources during this time,” said John Owens, who serves as chair of the Fund Advisory Committee for the Legacy Fund for Seward County. 

The Legacy Fund for Seward County has created a special account within its organization to receive funding that will be expended in response to needs created during the COVID-19 pandemic to support Seward County residents.

“We know new needs have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic that were not anticipated. For example, providing internet connectivity in homes so children can continue their education,  and providing more funding for local nonprofits to support individuals needing assistance with rent, utilities, or food. This is an unprecedented time and we want to provide an opportunity for people to give locally, knowing all the dollars contributed will remain in the county,” said Shane Baack, Community Legacy Fund board member. “This fund allows money to be distributed rapidly to the places it is needed most in Seward County.”

To donate to the Legacy Fund for the Seward County COVID-19 Response Fund, visit www.sewardcountylegacy.org. Checks may be sent to P.O. Box 41, Seward, NE 68434. Write “COVID-19 Fund” in the memo line of your check.

Grants from this account will be made only to 501(c)(3) public charities and governmental entities; this includes schools and churches. Grants will not be made to individuals or for-profit businesses.

To apply for a grant visit www.sewardcountylegacy.org. If you have any questions, contact Shane Baack at (402) 750-1281 or John Owens at (402) 641-0477.

More ways to help, resources for those in need

Here are some local resources in the Seward County area for those who may be in need of help with food, bills and more during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you're in a giving mood, these are places you can contribute.

Give and Gather Boxes: Seward United Methodist Church has added totes in its east door area outside the building at 1400 N. Fifth St. Anyone is welcome to give food, toilet paper and other supplies, or take what they need from the totes. Open to all.

Food Net: Seward United Methodist Church will continue its weekly Food Net food distribution at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Instead of visitors coming into the church, the distribution will be done in drive-up style in the parking lot. No appointment necessary. Volunteers are needed. Contact the church at (402) 643-4156 to volunteer. All are welcome.

Churches: Churches in the Seward County area have funds available to help assist those who need help with paying bills or other financial needs. Contact a local church.

Mobile Food Bank: The Lincoln Mobile Food Bank will be in Seward at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, in the St. John Lutheran Church parking lot, 919 N. Columbia Ave. The food bank will pre-bag food for people to pick up in their vehicles.

Christ's Cupboard: St. John Lutheran's Christ’s Cupboard remains open its normal days/hours: Monday from 3 to 5 p.m., Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. Beginning March 23, the food pantry has temporarily suspend “client-choice.” Those needing food should knock on the pantry door and volunteers will bring out pre-bagged sacks of groceries. Christ's Cupboard is located just west of the intersection of North Columbia and Hillcrest Avenue in Seward and is open to anyone in need.

Give blood: The American Red Cross and Nebraska Community Blood Bank are in need of blood donors. Because of blood mobiles being canceled across the state and nation in recent weeks, the blood supply is critically low. Visit www.redcrossblood.org or www.ncbb.org to make an appointment or find a location. All types are needed.

Ministerium: The Milford Ministerium is notifying the community that during this time of the COVID-19 outbreak, if people are unable to get out for groceries or pharmacy needs, the churches of Milford are glad to make those trips for them. Contact the Rev. Tim Springer at (402) 826-7529.

Foster Friends: Foster Friends in Seward is available to assist with needs such as clothing and other items for area families. The organization is in need of diapers at this time. For more information, call (402) 646-0542.

Set up a donation: Seward County Chamber and Development and Seward County Bridges are offering to put donors in touch with organizations that will benefit from their contributions. Contact Megan Kahler at the SCCDP office at (402) 643-4189.

United Way: Nebraska Finance Authority and United Way have set up a COVID-19 community economic relief fund. Call 1-866-211-9966 to be connected with a list of local agencies to provide assistance for bills, food etc. 

Milford Public Schools: Milford Public Schools is accepting financial donations to assist families in need with school supplies, internet access or other school-related items that may be needed during the school closure and to help defray costs volunteers are incurring while helping students. Donations may be sent or brought to the district office at 1200 W. First St. in Milford or call (402) 761-3321 for more information. However, if you receive a call or email asking for donations, call the office to confirm the legitimacy of the request before giving.

Have another resource? Let us know by calling (402) 643-3676 or emailing emily@sewardindependent.com.

County Fair kicks off 150th year with historic display

The Seward County Fair has a storied history. For 149 years, it has celebrated agriculture and entertainment for local residents and visitors to the county.

The fair will reach its 150th anniversary in 2020, Aug. 5-9.

“We tried as a fair board to do something special,” Seward County Ag Society member Doug Brand said at the unveiling of a special historical display at the Ag Pavilion March 12.

Agriculture and its history in Seward County from 1870 to 2020 are highlighted throughout the 18 panels of information.

“We started with 12 panels, now it's at 18, and we're planning to do one more this summer and then one of the 150th fair,” Brand said. “We had so much information, we could probably do more.”

A committee of more than a dozen people worked on the display for about six months, Brand said.

Read more HERE.


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