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Across the nation, toilet paper seems to be a primary commodity that people are scooping up in case of quarantine. The shelves at Hatch’s were bare before getting a truck in Monday morning to provide some re-stocking. The coronavirus has prompted Hatch’s to limit operations to phone-in orders, only.

Coronavirus shutdown!

Schools closing; no cases diagnosed in Southwest Nebraska yet

Who would have ever expected Perkins County Schools would be shutdown for a global pandemic traced back to Wuhan, China?

That shutdown represents just one of many that can be expected in the coming weeks from the new coronavirus, COVID-19, a respiratory virus that originated in China. 

While there have been no cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Southwest Nebraska as of Monday, March 16, health officials figure it’s only a matter of time.

The scope of the virus outbreak, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and a national emergency by President Trump, has proved to be staggering. 

What’s almost more unbelievable is that ramifications of the outbreak have came as far as the door of Perkins County residents. 

During a press conference Monday, Gov. Pete Ricketts urged people to take certain actions to keep the virus from spreading. Among those was limiting gatherings to 10 people or less as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The Nebraska Department of Education urged schools to close during this period of uncertainty and implement alternative learning environments. 

Matt Blomstedt, a native of Palisade and NDE commissioner, recommended students no longer report to a traditional school setting, until further notice. 

He said schools should be prepared to operate in the alternate learning environment for six to eight weeks, with a review of operations every two weeks, including plans for re-opening.

PCS planning outreach

Much of the focus during the regular meeting of the Perkins County Schools board Monday night was spent on how to deal with the coronavirus situation. 

Perkins County Schools did not hold classes Monday and announced later in the day they will be closed through March 29—for now. 

Superintendent Phillip Picquet said he met with staff and board members Sunday and all staff members met throughout the day Monday to begin implementing an alternative learning plan.

Picquet said they are planning for the worst case scenario where kids don’t return to school for the remainder of the school year. 

“We’re in unprecedented times,” he told the board.

Principals Ben Jones and Nicole Long praised their staffs with jumping right in to ensure learning continues while children are out of the school. 

This includes utilizing the students’ computers for high school students and creating drop-off points at the Venango Church, Madrid community hall and Hi-Line Co-op in Elsie were elementary study packets can be picked up for the students. 

Another key element, Picquet said, was insuring that the students get fed. 

He said they plan to continue preparing breakfasts and lunches that can be picked up at the school as well as delivered to the three drop-off points. 

PCHS restrictions

Perkins County Health Services CEO Neil Hilton said they spent much of Monday implementing patient and public-related precautions against COVID-19.

He also worked closely with the school in an advisory capacity and was present at their board meeting Monday night. 

Hilton said a fury of recommendations have come from a wide variety of health agencies and organizations. 

Most have been consistent on how to protect against the virus and how to deal with it if a case occurs here. 

Presently, Hilton said the hospital has six test kits to test for the virus. He said no one had been tested yet at PCHS. 

The hospital does have two isolation rooms, Hilton said, but just because someone contracts COVID-19 doesn’t mean they will immediately go into isolation. 

Since many of the symptoms resemble a cold or the flu, he said healthy individuals who contract the virus may be better off recovering at home. 

If that person is in the hospital, it exposes the healthcare staff to the virus and could reduce the available number of staff due to quarantining.  

Perkins County Health Services, Grant Medical Clinic and PCFC Ogallala have initiated public and patient-related protections related to COVID-19.  

The following restrictions are in place:

• Outpatient clinics and services: only one person can accompany patients to their outpatient appointments.  This person accompanying them should be an adult immediate family member.  This includes outpatient clinics, lab, diagnostic imaging and physical therapy.  No one under the age of 18 is allowed in unless needing treatment.

All outpatients will be contacted before their outpatient appointments and asked screening questions.

• Hospital inpatients: only immediate family members of inpatients will be allowed to visit and they must be symptom free.  No one under the age of 18 is allowed in unless needing treatment.

All patients and visitors will also be screened for temperature and symptoms upon arrival at the hospital.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:  fever, cough and difficulty breathing. 

• Golden Ours and Park Ridge Assisted Living: no visitors will be allowed until further notice.


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