Covid-19 Exposure

Lincoln – A worker at a recent Red Cross event held on April 1 in Atkinson has tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The worker is not a resident of the North Central District Health Department District (NCDHD). Upon notification, DHHS’ epidemiology team, Central District Health Department (CDHD), and NCDHD worked with the Red Cross and the worker to assess the risk of donors and volunteers who attended the blood drive. NCDHD began receiving contact investigation information on April 9. NCDHD immediately initiated contact with these attendees to notify them of potential exposure and next steps. On April 10, fourteen (14) potential close contacts were identified and immediately contacted by the Red Cross. All of these individuals are asymptomatic, quarantining, and self-monitoring for symptom development; they have been instructed to self-isolate should symptoms develop. On Saturday, April 12, NCDHD also contacted these potential close contacts to assist with any questions or concerns.

Targeted contact tracing as described above is the best public health course of action at this point. With the cooperation of organizers of this event, the health department was able to establish the population at risk and make recommendations for quarantine and self-monitoring as appropriate. Widespread testing is not warranted at this time because most donors and volunteers had very limited, if any, exposure. A single test of an asymptomatic person after a possible exposure in the time period up to 14 days later does not establish if the person was exposed or not. For those donors or volunteers who had no or limited exposure, the probability of a test being positive at this time would be no higher than any other member of the general population. Those who were identified to be at higher risk are already in self-quarantine and thus are not a risk for further transmission to the community. Testing is only necessary for this group if they become symptomatic. Given these appropriate public health response actions, any additional risk for COVID-19 to the greater community as a result of this event is limited.

Red Cross workers were provided face masks to wear voluntarily at the blood drive; this individual wore a face mask during interaction with donors at the event. As the window for exposure ends on April 15, additional risk for COVID-19 to the greater community as a result of this event remains extremely low.

The public health community in Nebraska takes any potential exposure to COVID-19 extremely seriously and continues to take make informed, decisive and appropriate decisions with respect to reducing the spread of coronavirus in all Nebraska communities. The department strongly urges all Nebraskans to seek out information from credible sources such as the local health department the DHHS COVID-19 webpage and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Following the issuance of new CDC guidance last week, all Red Cross workers will wear face masks at future events. Nebraskans have helped in the COVID-19 response by giving enough blood to meet current blood needs, practicing social distancing and following other recommendations that continue to help flatten the curve in the State. Residents interested in donating blood should contact the Red Cross to schedule an appointment to ensure a stable supply throughout this pandemic.

DHHS supports Governor Ricketts in urging Nebraskans to follow the Six Rules to Keep Nebraska Healthy.

• Stay home.

• No non-essential errands and no social gatherings.

• Respect the ten-person limits.

• Socially distance your work.

• Work from home or use the six-foot rule as much as possible in the workplace.

• Shop alone.

• Do this only once a week and do not take your family with you.

• Help kids social distance.

• Play at home, no group sports and no playgrounds.

• Help seniors stay at home. This can be done by shopping for them. Do not visit long-term facilities.

• Exercise daily. Do your best to stay as healthy and safe as you can.

Recent studies show that a significant portion of people with COVID-19 lack symptoms and those who eventually develop symptoms can pass the virus to others before showing symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-faq.html.

Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing. Public health officials continue to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus.

Here's where to find tools and resources for individuals and families, schools, communities, businesses, healthcare facilities, and first responders on the DHHS website - http://dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus and CDC's website – https://www.cdc.gov/covid19.

DHHS opened a statewide COVID-19 information line to help answer general questions and share the latest information and resources with Nebraskans to help keep them informed. The number is (402) 552-6645; hours of operation are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. CST, 7 days a week.

DHHS will continue to update Nebraskans through the DHHS website and on Facebook and Twitter as we have new information. The CDC's website is also a good resource for COVID-19 information - https://www.cdc.gov/covid19.

Follow DHHS on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the health of Nebraskans.

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