Great Plains Health officials say COVID-19  numbers should increase in area over coming weeks

Two individuals hospitalized at Great Plains Health — a man in his 90s and a woman in her 80s — have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to five confirmed cases in Lincoln County.

“Those individuals are stable at the moment,” Mel McNea, the chief executive officer of Great Plains Health, said in a media conference Sunday afternoon. “They have been isolated and being treated with great care and dignity by our nursing staff and also our medical providers."

The West Central District Health Department confirmed the latest cases in a media release Sunday morning and stated the organization is working toward determining the exposure source.

Both McNea and Dr. Jim Smith, the medical director of the emergency department of Great Plains Health, believe the amount of confirmed coronavirus in the area will increase over the next few weeks. Smith said in the media conference that he sees an increase in the amount of foot and vehicle traffic around town that has him concerned.

He reinforced the statement that if people don’t need to be out, they should stay and home and remain safe.

“I think we really did good job when the first cases came into town and then we had this little of a lull where we didn’t have much in terms of exposures,” Smith said. “I think over the next several days, in my opinion, we are going to have multiple admissions to the hospital with COVID.

“The incubation period is ripe right about now from the first exposure we had in town ... when you look at places like New York and Washington State that timeline is about right,” Smith said. “We are about a month behind New York.”

He added that local rural communities are not immune either.

“They might be saying, ‘We’re kind of off the beaten path, we’re probably not going to see it.’ They are going to see it, but will probably be just a few weeks behind (North Platte),” Smith said. “It’s inevitable.”

Smith said that in discussions with Dr. Eduardo Freitas, the infectious disease specialist at Great Plains Health, it is thought that the coronavirus outbreak should peak by the start of May.

“We certainly will be into May before we tail off with this and it is all about flattening that curve,” Smith said.

In other news from Sunday’s media conference:

Great Plains is not allowing any patient visitors into the building with the exception of women who are in labor.

Women in labor are allowed to have one guest in the delivery room. After the child is delivered and the visitor has spent a few hours with the child and mother, that visitor will be asked to leave as well.

“It is extremely important that we protect our staff. limit the use of (personal protective equipment) but also ensure the safety of our other patients,” McNea said.

McNea added that Great Plains Health is working with the Mayo Clinic in terms of lab testing on the virus to have results back in as soon as three days at the longest.

“That is fairly new and we’ll see where that goes but we are working diligently to get that rapid test done,” McNea said.

McNea stated that Great Plains Health is sitting good in terms of personal protective equipment supplies. He added that the hospital recently put out a call to the community for industrial masks that the government has approved to be used in the medical setting.

“If any industry in town or any manufacturer in town has those masks, we would be more than happy to receive them,” McNea said.

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