Local officials discuss the future of Omaha amid the Coronavirus

The mayor and other officials provided an update
Posted at 6:25 PM, Mar 11, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. — The city of Omaha provided the public with an in-depth report of Coronavirus updates as the World Health Organization officially declared the virus a pandemic.

City, county and health officials gathered at City Hall Wednesday morning to discuss Coronavirus plans for each department. Mayor Jean Stothert says while it's important to be cautious and aware, community spreading has not yet begun.

"I want to let everyone know we are well prepared. We've got all of these experts working on this right now and for people to be responsible but not panic about it," Stothert said.

The Douglas County Health Department says that as of Wednesday morning, there are only four confirmed cases in the county and testing the general population with kits is not a problem.

Effective Wednesday, all Omaha Police Department travel and training is suspended for the time being. But personnel are still required to report to work.

"Should it be necessary, each deputy chief has identified personnel that can work from home. Not your uniform responders, perhaps detectives and support staff in the event we need to go that route. As of this time, nobody's allowed to work from home," Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said.

Omaha Fire Chief Dan Olsen says that their response protocol has not changed. However, they are on the front lines of transferring patients and did have to test one firefighter for the virus.

"We did have one firefighter that has been tested for Covid-19 and that test came back negative. Keep in mind that that firefighter was wearing the appropriate level of personal protective equipment. So it did its job in that case," Olsen said.

As for events, the NCAA men's basketball tournament scheduled for next weekend at the CHI Health Center will go on as planned without fans or a crowd.

In a statement released Wednesday, NCAA president Mark Emmert said in part, "I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance."

Wednesday morning, before the NCAA made this decision, the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority president Roger Dixon spoke about the financial impact of not having people come to the city for the tournament.

"The hospitality industry is the third largest industry in the state. So if the fans aren't allowed in, they're not going to stay in hotels either, they're not going to visit restaurants, it would be a huge impact," Dixon said.

One local event could possibly remain unscathed. As of Wednesday morning, the Omaha St. Patrick's Day parade is going on as planned.