Central District Health Department staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Published: Apr. 27, 2020 at 12:13 PM CDT
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On Monday, Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele addressed the community in a briefing regarding the current coronavirus situation.

Director for the Central District Health Department, Teresa Anderson was not in attendance. Mayor Steele read from her written statement, “Teresa informed me that one of the members of the CDHD staff has tested positive for COVID-19 and was showing signs while still working,” said Steele.

Anderson’s letter went on to say that many of the current staff have already been working from home, and those at the building have been wearing masks, have been taking appropriate precautions for weeks, and that the CDHD should therefore be at low risk.

Anderson said there will now be very limited staff at the building and that the rest of the staff will be doing their part to self-isolate for the next 14 days, “This is another great reminder that anyone can be at risk, and why social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks is so important,” said Anderson.

As of now the CDHD continues to recommend DHM of no gathers or social events until the number of COVID-19 tests decrease in the district.

The President of CHI Health St. Francis, Ed Hannon also spoke, giving some positive news, “We are starting to see glimmers of hope in a slightly different picture,” Ed said. “We were worried earlier on of the possibility of our hospital reaching capacity, but that’s never happened. We have always been able to transferred more stable patients out to nearby hospitals if need be. Of the positive tests we’ve received in the area we’ve only had to treat around 100 patients in the hospital. That means many people in our community have been able to fight the virus at home,” he said.

Hannon also said they now have an extra 5 ventilators, so a total of 20 ventilators at the hospital, and have never had more than 15 ventilators in use at one time.

Hannon also said since they are starting to test more people, they will see the number in positive cases continue to rise during this time.

Mayor Steele also gave an update on the Grand Island JBS meatpacking plant inspection done last week by two doctors from Nebraska Medicine.

Below is the email in its entirely from Dr. Shelly Schwedhelm, Executive Director of Emergency Management & Clinical Operations for Nebraska Medicine:

"We visited 6 plants in the past 7 days so I reviewed my notes from the JBS plant in Grand Island. Zach Ireland is the plant manager at JBS. He greeted Dr. Lawler (copied) and I with total transparency.

We spoke with him and his safety officer Betti Dugar and walked through the attached checklist. When finished we went on a tour of the plant in full gear. Once finished we discussed challenges and potential mitigation strategies with them.

Here are a few things that were absolutely what we would call best practices:

•Implementation of barriers where possible

•Audits on use of social distancing and correct mask use

•Use of visual signage in multiple languages (4 languages in plant)

•Use of a text app for workers that is free and converts messages to the varied languages as appropriate

•Robust environmental cleaning processes

•Workforce policies with no penalty for absenteeism and they had removed workers >70 and pregnant workers 2 weeks prior with full pay given their increased risk

The opportunities here are no different than many of the others we visited:

•Engage communities to help increase safety outside of the plant (social distancing at home, on the way to and from work, etc.)

•Increase hand hygiene stations

•Continue to hardwire the many interventions already implemented

We offered some suggestions on airflow and HVAC items and Zach quickly jumped on that and engaged the engineers to see how to take action. He reported back success with this.

In addition, Zach noted his concern about gatherings as it related to upcoming Ramadan holiday. He sent us the documents to share with others a couple of days ago which we did. He put together the attached education information to help drive the messages home of safety.

We continue to now find that many of the remaining opportunities are within the varied communities so we know that plants are engaging those leaders already and we are trying to also address some of the varied groups that already work with refugees and migrant workers to help us continue to press the issues of safety outside the plant.


Below are also the recommendations for best practices for workers and people in the community with the upcoming Ramadan holiday.

Safe Ramadan Practices During the Pandemic (COVID-19)

- To avoid crowded gathering associated with Iftar buffets (Breaking the fast), consider the physical distancing measures in place.

- During ablution before prayers: Use soap, water and hand sanitizers.

- Use disposable tissues and bins.

- Personal prayer rugs should always be placed over carpets and tiles.

- Always practice physical distancing.

- Use religious and cultural greeting that avoid physical contact. Please avoid hand shaking, hugging and touching while greeting each other.

- Stop crowded numbers of people gathering in places associated with Ramadan to practice the social distancing measures.

- Practice physical distancing by strictly maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet between people at all times.

- Always wear masks when coming to work and going home."

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