Nebraska National Guard tests 305 guests at Open Door Mission for COVID-19

Posted at 6:18 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 19:18:10-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Monday the Open Door Mission, in partnership with the Nebraska National Guard, tested 305 guests for coronavirus. The group is roughly 92-percent of the those at the Open Door Mission who were eligible to be tested.

“The facility, their personnel, helped in processing the patients for us. [It] went a lot smoother for us and it made it able for us to get the 300 number in a three hour time lapse,” said Capt. Trevor Bellows of the Nebraska National Guard.

As of Monday morning, the Open Door Mission had 19 positive cases of COVID-19. Nine of those cases are staff members. The mission has a COVID-19 hot wing with 96 beds in it and is making another hot wing in preparation for results coming in Wednesday.

“Nationally the average is 21-30 percent that we’ve been notified to prepare for and that is what we’re doing,” said Candace Gregory, the Open Door Mission’s President and CEO.

Monday’s testing was the second round done at the mission. Last Sunday, the Nebraska National Guard tested 380 guests. The mission already reduced capacity from 917 safe shelter beds to 450 to help with social distancing.

“Everyone is basically isolated here at the Open Door Mission campus which means we’re serving a lot more meals because people have nowhere to go,” Gregory said.

Another problem the Open Door Mission is facing is what to do with all of the donations they’ve been receiving. With their three outreach centers closed they’ve run out of space to collect donations and are asking people to stop sending donations in at this time unless it’s related to coronavirus relief.

“I literally have no storage space left,” Gregory said. “I have staff members that can’t work because they’re a high risk because of their age and underlying health issues and it is tough and not sustainable without the volunteers.”

The Open Door Mission is still working each day to help the homeless. The pandemic is just another challenge they’re needing to face head-on.

“You have to follow all of the CDC guidelines regardless whether you’re experiencing homelessness or not. You should be keeping social distance, wearing a mask at all times, washing your hands properly and using good hygiene etiquette and unfortunately the pandemic does not discriminate and homelessness and poverty still exist here,” Gregory said.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.