Gov. Pete Ricketts announced March 16 that public gatherings needed to be limited to keep the coronavirus from spreading. Like Omaha and Lincoln, smaller Nebraska communities began implementing their plans.
McPherson County Sheriff Thomas Burch said the county courthouse is open to appointments, but not to the public. Other public places have similar restrictions.
“Everything is OK so far. There is a little less traffic with school out, and it is calving season,” he said. “People naturally distance themselves this time of year.”
Calving season was a recurring theme in interviews with officials in other west central Nebraska counties. Ranchers and farmers have work to do. Calves don’t stop being born because of a human virus.
In Hooker County, Sheriff Wynn Wiens said he was still out on the road. The courthouse is closed to the public, but has a drop box for ballots and other business. The grocery store and some other vital businesses remain open.
Thomas County Sheriff Gary Eng noted there wasn’t much traffic and things were pretty quiet in the Thedford area.
In Grant County, Sheriff and Emergency Manager Mike Rath echoed Eng: “Everything is routine right now.”
“Traffic is off by about 20%,” Rath said. “Grant County serves tourists in the summer on their way to South Dakota, but not much now.” Courthouse personnel take public appointments, but otherwise the county courthouse is closed.
Logan County Clerk Deb Myers said that courthouse is still open for business, “but there is a plan in place if there is a change.” Traffic is less as people are using the phone to conduct business.
Blaine County Clerk April Warren spent her time on Wednesday morning at a county commissioners meeting. She said the board voted to close the courthouse to the public, but will continue with local business, rotating personnel. Details were being worked out. Most of the vital businesses are still open, but she sees less traffic and more people are doing business by mail and phone.
Arthur County Sheriff Bill Simpson also serves as the emergency manager and a school bus driver. His multiple jobs keep him out and around his county.
“We are home schooling right now,” Simpson said. “The bus drivers deliver school papers and pick them up from families.”
The Arthur County Schools Board of Education will have a special meeting Monday to discuss the issues.
Given the circumstances nationally, authorities have advised people to take COVID-19 seriously and do what we all can do to help others one by one. It is the Nebraskan way.
“It would be easy to get depressed, but everyone needs to try to stay positive,” Simpson said. “We’ll get through this. God is in control.”