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Mayor Roger Steele speaks Thursday morning during the annual State of the City address at the Bosselman Enterprises headquarters in Grand Island. (Independent/Barrett Stinson)

Teresa Anderson said the COVID-19 numbers in Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties “are not good” and are continuing to climb.

At a press briefing Thursday morning broadcast online and on GITV, Anderson, the health director for the Central District Health Department, said the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths have gone upward over the past few weeks.

According to CDHD, there have been a total of 700 positive cases in the three-county area as of Thursday afternoon. Of this total, 664 are from Hall County, 29 from Hamilton and seven from Merrick. 

CDHD also reported 19 total deaths from COVID-19, which is an increase from the 18 deaths reported Wednesday.

The death is a Hall County male in his 60s.

Anderson said the dashboard was created with the help of the city of Grand Island, Hall County and CDHD. She said one chart shows the number of new COVID-19 cases each week, while another shows the number of cumulative COVID-19 deaths by week.

“We are sad to have to add this line chart, but we think it is necessary for people to understand the severity of the disease,” Anderson said.

ope体育She said other charts on the dashboard show the level of COVID-19 spread within the city of Grand Island. Anderson noted it is “pretty spread throughout the city.”

The dashboard also showed the average age of the positive COVID-19 patients to be between 40 and 49.

“These are ages of people the virus has taken from us,” Anderson said. “It is our hope we do not need to use this chart for very much longer.”

Anderson encouraged individuals to wear a face mask if they need to venture outside for essential activities.

ope体育“Wearing masks is indeed essential for now,” she said. “We have taken them off for now, but we will put them on when we are done. As a reminder, within our building at CDHD, everyone wears masks whenever they are in the building. For those still going to work, our recommendation is to always wear a mask.”

Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele said that his wife, Liana, has been working to put together posters that show people wearing these masks, as well as the proper way to social distance — staying 6 feet apart from others — that will be distributed throughout the community.

ope体育Karen Rathke, president and chief professional officer of the Heartland United Way, said her organization has been working to put out some promotional materials, such as posters and billboard, to inform people about proper COVID-19 safety measures.

Julie Wright, creative director at Tally Creative, also showed some custom graphics her agency has made that people can share on their personal and/or business social media pages using the hashtags, #ThisisRealGI and #DoYourPartGI.

She also shared a video her daughter made as part of her e-learning that showed how to make a face mask and the proper way to wear it.

Steele also addressed concerns from the public in regard to JBS. He said that only Gov. Pete Ricketts has the authority to order private businesses be shut down.

“Just so you know, Gov. Ricketts told me that mayors are not allowed to decide if private businesses stay open or are closed,” Steele said.

ope体育According to Steele, Ricketts is “fully aware of what is happening in Grand Island.”

Steele reminded Grand Island residents that Ricketts is focused on the best interests of the entire state of Nebraska, whereas he, as mayor, is focused on the city of Grand Island, meaning they both have to make decisions from different points of view.

On Friday, Anderson and Steele are expected to have a phone conference with Ricketts to discuss the COVID-19 situation in Grand Island and Hall County. Steele said one thing he plans to ask Ricketts about is the two medical professionals who toured JBS on Tuesday and what sort of feedback they provided him about it.

“I am going to tell him (Ricketts) that the people of Grand Island are very concerned about the rate of COVID-19 infections in our city,” Steele said. “I am going to tell him that we would like the state to help us any way it can.”

Steele also addressed his decision to close Jackrabbit Run Golf Course. He said that as a city-owned entity, he holds the decision on whether such entities remain open or whether they close.

“According to the Omaha World-Herald, we have COVID-19 rates that are 15 times higher than the rest of the state,” Steele said. “I will not reopen Jackrabbit Run Golf Course until I believe it is safe to do so. That is my responsibility to decide and the decision lies with me.”

Anderson encouraged people not to host garage sales at this time because, according to the National Institutes of Health, the coronavirus can live as long as three hours in the air, 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic or stainless steel.

“If we add to that the notion the fact we want to maintain that 6-foot distance from one another, what we know is this is not a good time to have a garage sale,” she said. “There will be time for this later on when services are back up and running throughout the city and county.”

Anderson said individuals can still sort through their items to sell at a garage sale, but to hold off on hosting one until after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

ope体育Steele said he has heard a rumor saying the people of Grand Island do not care about COVID-19 and said this is not true.

ope体育“Many of our employers have a delicate balancing act,” he said. “These employers on one hand have been told to stay open because they are critical infrastructure industries. On the other hand, they have to do their best to protect their employees.

ope体育“That is a very difficult balance to achieve, but I believe they care deeply about the safety and well-being of everybody.”

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