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Douglas County woman is Nebraska's first positive case of coronavirus

Posted at 3:52 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 12:56:44-05

3/7/2020 update:

Gov. Pete Ricketts says Nebraska's first coronavirus patient, a 36-year-old female who had traveled to the U.K., played in a Fremont YMCA basketball game and attended a VFW dinner on Wednesday night prior to coming to the hospital.

Officials are working to get more information on other places the patient went before being hospitalized.

Original story:

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - Nebraska has its first positive case of the coronavirus, officials said Friday afternoon.

The patient is a Douglas County woman who was traveling through the United Kingdom.

Doctors say the woman is 36 years old. She went to the emergency room on Thursday and had a respiratory infection that had been going on for 12 days. She is considered to be "very seriously ill."

The information on the case was given out through a joint phone call news conference with Gov. Pete Ricketts and state officials and medical personnel Friday afternoon.

Dr. Robert Penn, a physician at Methodist, said on the call that the woman became ill on February 25, while still in the UK, and returned to Omaha on February 27. The woman went to the Methodist ER on Thursday, where she was tested for coronavirus. The test came back positive on Friday. On Friday evening, the woman was transported from Methodist to the biocontainment unit at UNMC.

Gov. Ricketts said he does not know if the woman was out in the community or stayed at home prior to going to the ER.

Officials are looking back to people who may have had contact with her to see which people may have been exposed.

This evening, a spokesperson for the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services told 3 News Now:

"We are working with the local health department to identify people who came into close contact with this person in order to decrease the spread of illness. These people will be self-isolated and actively monitored twice daily by public health officials for fever and respiratory symptoms. If they start experiencing symptoms, they will immediately undergo further testing."

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts' office provided the following release:

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that the first presumptive positive case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had been reported to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

“As we receive news of the first case of coronavirus in our state, I continue to urge Nebraskans to practice healthy habits to avoid transmitting germs,” said Gov. Ricketts. “Like a snowstorm, Nebraskans should be planning in case they need to be at home for an extended period, and they should also plan in case schools close. At the same time, I want to assure Nebraskans that State leaders and medical professionals across Nebraska are doing their utmost to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on public health.”

The case is travel-related. The patient is a woman in her 30s from Douglas county who recently returned from England at the end of February. She started experiencing symptoms and was hospitalized at Methodist Hospital on March 5. Yesterday, public health officials received notification that this person could possibly have the virus, and they immediately ordered COVID-19 testing, which came back positive this afternoon. Currently, she is being transferred from the progressive care unit at Methodist Hospital to the Biocontainment Unit at Nebraska Medicine / the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC).

DHHS is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the local health department to identify additional people who came in close contact with this person in order to decrease the spread of the illness. These people will be self-isolated and actively monitored twice daily by public health officials for fever and respiratory symptoms. If they start experiencing symptoms, they will immediately undergo further testing.

“DHHS and its public health and healthcare system partners have been monitoring this situation very closely with the knowledge that we could see travel-related cases here in Nebraska,” said Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “We quickly recognized we had a potential coronavirus 2019 case and took immediate action. Our goal is to protect Nebraskans and prevent the spread of the disease.”

This is a travel-related case, and it’s important to remember that there isn’t evidence of COVID-19 spreading in Nebraska communities at this time.

Travelers who recently returned from China are also self-isolating and being actively monitored by their local health department. Travelers who returned from countries with community spread of COVID-19 within the last 14 days are also being actively monitored.

“Ensuring the health of Nebraskans is our main priority,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “These actions are meant to help decrease the risk of disease spreading in the community. However, even with these actions, we may see additional confirmed cases in Nebraska.”

Nebraskans all have a role to play in this response, and DHHS continues to urge Nebraskans to take action to prepare, if they haven’t already.

Make sure you have two weeks’ worth of food and water, check regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply, and think through what you would do if schools and childcare centers close or you have to work from home. Here’s where you can find tools and resources for individuals and families, schools, communities, businesses, healthcare facilities, and first responders:http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus [dhhs.ne.gov] orhttps://www.cdc.gov/covid19 [cdc.gov]. For information on building a readiness kit, go to https://www.ready.gov[gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com].


Practicing good health habits can help prevent the spread of coronavirus disease and other respiratory infections:

· Stay home if you are sick.

· Avoid close contact with those who are sick.

· Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue in the trash.

· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.


Nebraskans can find useful and reliable information to keep them informed on dhhs.ne.gov [dhhs.ne.gov] and its Facebook and Twitter sites as well as local health department websites and social media sites.

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 continues to evolve. The virus originated in China and has spread beyond the country’s borders with cases now reported in multiple other countries including the United States.


Nebraska public health leaders will continue to address this threat. Here are steps they are already taking:

· Sharing the latest guidance and information with local health departments, hospitals, health care providers, first responders, and local and state labs through our extensive Health Alert Network to ensure a well-coordinated response in Nebraska.

· Engaging in active and ongoing communication with the CDC and other state and federal partners as part of the overall national response to this emerging public health threat.

· Reviewing and enhancing response plans.

· Monitoring Nebraskans returning from countries with community transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 to ensure timely medical care if needed and minimize the potential risk to others.

· Facilitating confirmatory testing, isolation, and monitoring of Nebraskans experiencing symptomsto identify cases as soon as possible.

· Having a system in place to track and monitor people who have contact with a confirmed case in an effort to immediately detect secondary cases and minimize the potential for ongoing, undetected, person-to-person transmission.

· Updating [dhhs.ne.gov]dhhs.ne.gov and DHHS social media sites with the latest resources and information to help keep Nebraskans informed.