Grand Island virus spread: "It's not a good situation."

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) Grand Island's mayor and the director of the local health department painted a grim picture about the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Grand Island officials said Monday that the National Guard will be in town this week to conduct tests for the COVID-19 virus. (SOURCE: MGN)

During a briefing broadcast early Monday on Grand Island TV, Mayor Roger Steele and Central District director Teresa Anderson said they had appealed to Governor Ricketts Sunday to issue a shelter in place order for Grand Island. Ricketts declined to do that.

"The medical community, the mayor and the health department requested that of the governor, he doesn't think it's the right time to do it. So that's his responsibility," said Anderson Monday. Anderson said the health department has limited testing capability and that Grand Island area health care providers are diagnosing based on symptoms and those cases are not counted in official reports.

"So for us a count of 60," Anderson said, "including those folks who have symptoms but not tested turns in a number more like 600."

Anderson went on to say that at least three long-term care facilities had exposures to health care workers. She said they are working "fervently" with those facilities to reduce the spread. "It's not a good situation," Anderson said.

Anderson said the Nebraska National Guard will set up a testing tent in Grand Island sometime this week and she was hopeful that would yield a more accurate picture of the virus spread.

Anderson renewed her plea for people to observe social distancing. "How bad this actually gets depends on you for the next eight weeks," she said.

For his part, Steele said Grand Island was a hot spot for the deadly conronavirus. "You should assume that the virus is everywhere in Grand Island. We would prefer that there would be a shelter in place order, but Governor Ricketts is not willing to do that," Steele said.

He said he's received numerous requests to issue a city-wide shelter in place order, but he said he was not authorized to do that. He also said he's received requests to shut down certain of Grand Island's large manufacturing plants. But he said he was not authorized to shut down a business which is deemed to be essential.

Steele said that he and Anderson would continue to inform Ricketts about the Grand Island situation.

Steele also appealed to the Grand Island community to carefully observe social distancing, practice good hygiene and avoid all group settings.

"There is a dangerous, in fact, deadly, virus loose in our community," he said.

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