Panhandle Unified Command confirmed 15 more cases of COVID-19 in the region from late Friday afternoon to late Monday afternoon, and 10 of them were in Dawes County – 2 children 19 and under and 8 adults.
One adult case was a close contact while the remaining 9 cases were all community spread, meaning contact tracers weren’t able to pinpoint the source of the infection.
Unified Command and Panhandle Public Health District officials say the sudden outbreak of cases in Dawes County – 20 since last Monday – could have scuttled plans for schools in the Chadron and Gordon-Rushville Districts to open yesterday, but didn’t because of each district’s mask protocols.
Chadron Supt Ginger Meyer announced over the weekend that 3 staffers at the high school and 1 at the middle school had tested positive for COVID-19 with Gordon-Rushville Supt Lori Liggett revealing one staffer was presumptive positive.
PPHD Deputy Director Jessica Davies says both districts were able to go ahead with classes because the staffers who’d tested positive and everyone they were in contact with at their schools wore masks.
Under protocols, if both a positive case and a close contact were wearing masks, the contact would not need to quarantine – just to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. Because all the Chadron and Gordon-Rushville staffers were masked, none had to self-quarantine and leave their schools even more shorthanded.
Davies says the Broken Bow district offers a perfect example of the latter situation. The 800 student district in central Nebraska has canceled most classes this week after 3 staff members tested positive and 2 dozen others to self-quarantine.
Broken Bow district is now requiring all students and staff to wear masks, but that’s too late for prekindergarten and 6th-12th graders, whose classes have been cancelled through Friday. K-5 classes are expected to be held as usual.
As for the full weekend numbers for the Panhandle, Unified Command says that in addition to the 15 cases, there were 7 recoveries.
That brings the totals so far to 504 positive cases, 434 recoveries, 6 deaths, and 64 active cases including 4 who are hospitalized. The 9,847 tests given in the Panhandle have a positivity rate of 5.1%.