May 22, 2020 9:43 PM

Nebraska officials watching Omaha for strain on hospitals

Posted May 22, 2020 9:43 PM

By GRANT SCHULTE-Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska public health officials are watching for signs of strain on Omaha's hospitals because they've received a steady increase in coronavirus patients, but the state's top medical official said Friday that he isn't worried yet about the caseload as Gov. Pete Ricketts moves to further ease safety restrictions.

Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone said that based on his conversations with Omaha-area hospital officials, he doesn't believe the hospitals are at risk of being overrun with COVID-19 patients.

"So far, nobody feels really overwhelmed. ... I can't predict the future, but I'm not worried about it right now," he said at a news conference with Ricketts.

His comments came after a University of Nebraska Medical Center infectious diseases expert said she's concerned about the number of hospitalizations in the Omaha area, even though hospitals statewide still have plenty of capacity.

On Thursday, Ricketts announced that he was further loosening social-distancing restrictions in all but four Nebraska counties on June 1, citing Nebraska's statewide hospital capacity and the need to inch back toward normal life.

Dr. Angela Hewlett, medical director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, said the university medical center is at 80% of its capacity. Statewide, Nebraska's hospitals have 43% of their beds, 36% of their intensive care unit beds and 77% of their ventilators available.

"We just keep building," Hewlett said Thursday night on Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, the state's public broadcasting station. "That's what I'm worried about. It's not a big surge, but a gradual building up over the last couple of weeks."

Asked Friday about the patient numbers in Omaha, Ricketts said he's "paying close attention to that area" and getting advice from Anthone and other public health officials, but he gave no indication that he intends to back away from plans to loosen restrictions. He said the caseloads illustrate why it's important for residents to continue with social-distancing safety measures.

Anthone said Douglas County has only seen a net gain of one coronavirus patient in the last 24 hours, from 134 to 135. He said there hasn't been an increase in the number of patients who need ventilators, but as of Friday, the county only had 61 of its 365 intensive-care unit beds available.

However, Anthone said Omaha-area health officials still have a lot of options to prevent an overload, such as sending patients down to Lincoln hospitals that have stable numbers and aren't nearly as crowded.

Health officials reported Thursday that five more people in Nebraska had died of COVID-19 and there were 303 more confirmed cases of the disease. That raised the state's death toll to 143 and its total number of confirmed cases during the pandemic to 11,425, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The actual number of people in the state who have contracted the disease is believed to be much higher, as testing hasn't been widely available during the pandemic and some people who get the disease don't show symptoms.

Nearly 78,700 people have been tested since the pandemic began.

For some infected people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness or death. But for most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.

Also on Friday, 11 state senators sent Ricketts a letter calling on him to spend some of Nebraska's federal coronavirus money on rental assistance.

Ricketts previously assigned an executive order designed to protect tenants from getting evicted during the pandemic, but he announced this week that he's going to let it expire in June.

Ricketts sidestepped a question about how he plans to respond to the senators' request, but he said he expects to make an announcement soon on how the state will use its share of the money.

Continue Reading Panhandle Post
May 22, 2020 9:43 PM
CSC dervice learning course focuses on COVID-19

By Tena L. Cook, CSC Marketing Coordinator

CHADRON – This summer, students can earn credit in a summer course focused on service learning. Dr. Matt Evertson, who teaches Learning to Serve scheduled to begin June 8, said he is encouraging students who enroll to pursue projects related to the current health crisis.

“Don’t feel helpless by Covid-19, work to beat it,” Evertson said.

Evertson said he will provide alternatives for students not interested in the topic.

A major requirement of the course is for each student to write a formal proposal including research into a problem in the community, a case about the seriousness of the problem, and a plan to address the issue through a service project.

To accomplish an equivalent amount of work to the semester-based course, students taking the eight-week format should plan to spend an average of 16 to 18 hours per week on the course. Evertson said the course is flexible.

“Students check in twice a week and complete the posted activities on their own, at their own pace. Students can predictably arrange their summer schedules around this course. Enrollment is typically small, so they will have more one-on-one help from me,” Evertson said. “Students can work individually or collaborate on projects that will make a big impact on their communities. They truly can learn while serving.”      

Although it is an introductory level course, Evertson admits the goals are ambitious.

“Hopefully my goals are realistic. The important element is students are learning by doing, reflecting on what they have learned in the process of addressing important community issues, and trying to help do something about them,” he said. “Students propose these projects with a lot of hope and ambition, and then they encounter the realities of working with others, arranging schedules, and doing the hard work of service.”

Tracking and writing about what happens between their proposals and the actual projects is where Evertson said the core of inquiry-based learning happens.

“Failure is actually a good thing, as it allows them to write about and learn from the experiences and what they might do differently in the future,” he said.

Evertson is excited about the texts for the course, “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope,” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and “Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors Without Borders” by Peter Redfield.

The new version of “Tightrope” focuses on rural America and America. The previous edition had a global perspective.

“It has a lot of inspiration stories and advice and reporting on the more rural and remote parts of the country and what folks are doing to try and overcome poverty, job loss, drug addiction, and more,” Evertson said.

“Life in Crisis” addresses some elements of health-crisis management worldwide. Evertson chose this text when deciding to pivot towards the coronavirus pandemic.

“The reading will show students how dedicated professionals and volunteers have had major success in addressing all sorts of medical crises while also illustrating the challenges that must be overcome,” Evertson said.

Examples of previous FYI 169AB projects

·         Mentoring youth and addressing gang violence in Chattanooga, Tenn.

·         Food Trucks to fight community hunger in Spearfish, S.D.

·         Saving the Frontier County Fair, Maintenance and Service in Stockville, Neb.

·         QPR Training at Community Business for Suicide Prevention in Cheyenne, Wyo.

·         Fostering interest in STEM education by mentoring High School Students through an Amateur Radio Club in Lincoln, Neb.

·         Community project supporting awareness and treatment for HIV/AIDS in Maputo, Mozambique

·         Promoting healthy relationships and combatting dating violence and abuse among teens in Alliance, Neb.

·         Refurbishment, publicity and fundraising for the North Platte Community Playhouse and Fox Theater in North Platte, Neb.

·         Marketing, advertising and care and fostering of animals for the Humane Society of the Black Hills in Rapid City, S.D.

·         Wildlife protection, roads cleanup and other projects for youth community service in Clarks, Neb.

·         Volunteer work for Haven of Hope food bank and homeless shelter in San Antonio, Texas.

·         Food bank, food insecurity and community relations with law enforcement in a low-income housing development in Durham, N.C.