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Second community spread case of COVID-19 confirmed, Omaha declares state of emergency

The second case was from Douglas County
Posted at 10:11 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 00:39:02-04

OMAHA, Neb. — The second community spread case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Douglas County.

This second case has prompted local and state officials to react aggressively. Major changes to restaurants, bars and schools are in effect.

The second community spread case is a man is his 40's who was hospitalized with a cough and fatigue but did not become infected through traveling or being in contact with any confirmed cases. This is one of four new coronavirus cases in the county. The other three cases are all travel related. One individual traveled to Europe, the other to New York and the other to Denver.

The second community spread case has prompted the Douglas County Health Department to implement an order restricting crowds to under ten people until April 30. This includes bars and restaurants, but does not include places like hospitals, grocery stores and retail.

"This is an order. It is enforceable by law enforcement," Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said.

The Omaha Police Department will perform compliance checks on businesses not following the ten and under rule, but will work with businesses figuring out the new rules for a smooth transition.

Douglas County health officials say that order will be amended to close bars and restaurant dining areas by Thursday.

"One thing that will be in a new order, an amended order that we don't have in this, is that we are closing bars and closing restaurants and only having restaurants open for drive-thru, delivery or takeout," Douglas County Health director Dr. Adi Pour said.

As businesses will be affected by these decisions, the mayor decided to issue an executive order Wednesday to create an advisory board to provide assistance for different sectors like small businesses and child care.

"We do...understand how difficult this is now for every single person in the community," Mayor Stothert said.

Mayor Stothert also declared a State of Emergency for the city of Omaha, which gives the mayor more power to make quick decisions she deems necessary, things for example, like setting a curfew, which has not yet been discussed.

"It's important that we are all driving the same message and that we are all in this together and that we all want to be proactive instead of reactive," Mayor Stothert said.

The mayor says that this is a rapidly changing situation and the city and county are responding in accordance to state and national guidance and recommendations.