Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Panhandle Pandemic

All-Out Fight Against COVID-19 Disrupts Everyday Life

The United States has joined the unfortunate group of countries throughout the world battling the coronavirus pandemic.

The effects are being felt here in the Panhandle.

According to Panhandle Public Health, six individuals were tested for the virus and their tests came back negative. Those numbers, reported over the weekend, are sure to grow. As of early Wednesday, there were 24 confirmed cases statewide.

Closings throughout the area have included public schools – Kimball, Potter-Dix and Banner County – for at least the next two weeks, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated. Officials were concerned that students returning from spring break would have been exposed to the virus and hence it would rapidly spread.

Internal and external school activities also have been cancelled for the remainder of the closure period.

When the schools close, some children are left without meals, so Danessa Terrill, food service director for Kimball schools, stepped into action. She received permission from the federal and state governments to begin serving meals under the umbrella of the summer food program.

Tuesday was the first day that meals were served. Terrill and two food service workers served more than 85 meals of chicken strips, mac and cheese, fruit, vegetable and milk.

"For a lot of families, this will take the burden off of them, so they don't have to worry about about extra expense of food while the school is closed," she said.

The lunch goers also received the next day's breakfast.

Many local businesses have altered their physical contact with the public at least for the next two weeks to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Kimball Bakery and Merrycakes has curbside service, while Points West Community Bank is operating through its drive-thru and encouraging online and mobile banking. FirsTier Bank is open to the public but monitoring the situation. Kimball State Bank, where customers enter only after ringing a buzzer, hasn't made any changes yet. They are considering a makeshift drive thru but still checking out all the options.

Jordan Autrey at Bemis Pharmacy wanted customers to know that there is no shortage of medicines, so there is no need to stockpile them. Due to the fact that the pharmacy is limiting physical contact inside the store, they have home delivery and curbside pickup. Just call the pharmacy and ask about those services.

The Kimball County Manor is on CSM (Center for Medicare and Medicaid) Lockdown. There is no visitation. As employees enter the facility, their temperatures are taken and if they have a temperature above 100.4 degrees they must leave, and only visitors are allowed for end of life situations.

The director of the Kimball County Manor, Shannon Monheiser, said "the families have been really supportive, they realize that we need to be proactive and they appreciate the steps we have taken."

The staff has stepped up, according to Monheiser. The manor is glad to connect families and residents through Skype or Facetime. Due to the lockdown procedures, there are no group activities, only activities that can be done one-on-one and they have no volunteers coming into the facility.

Monheiser also stated that supplies are a concern throughout the state. In order to reassure families, Kimball Health Services is making rounds in the manor three times a week; therefore they do not have to leave the facility.

Kimball Health Services has made changes as a result of the COVID-19 concerns. In an effort to keep patients and staff safe, all patients will use the main door on the west side of the building. All other entrances are locked. For entrance to ER, go to the emergency room entrance and ring the bell.

The North Campus has been restricted. Assistance with billing can be obtained by calling 308-235-1990. (See related story on Page B6.)

Kimball County Visitors Center on I-80 is closed to the public.

At the state level, Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an executive order to permit state and local governmental boards, commissions, and other public bodies to meet by videoconference, teleconference, or other electronic means through May 31.  The governor's order stipulated that all such virtual meetings must be available to members of the public, including media, to give citizens the opportunity to participate as well as to be duly informed of the meetings' proceedings. The governor's order did not waive advanced publication notice and agenda requirements for public meetings."

Symptoms of the coronavirus include cough, fever and difficulty breathing. In order for a test to be taken there must a be a travel history along with other criteria.

A nasal swab is the method of testing for coronavirus. The swab is sent to Omaha to the state laboratory by courier. There is a 24-48 hour turnaround. Reports indicate that more testing will be available by next week and additional laboratories will be conducting tests.

Good hygiene to lessen the spread of the virus includes washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, covering your mouth when coughing, practicing social distancing, gathering only in groups of 10 or less, and cleaning and disinfect surfaces