Nebraskans show wisdom in response to officials' pleas

Monday, March 23, 2020

Like columnist Walt Sehnert, whose column on the 1918 H1N1 “Spanish Flu” is reprinted on this page, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is looking to the past to provide guidance in dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s all about slowing the spread of the illness enough to give health care professionals time and resources to help save the patients who need it the most.

And, despite the beliefs apparently held by thousands of “spring break” college kids crowding American beaches, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting that 20% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 in the U.S. were 20-44 years old. Even if you aren’t exhibiting symptoms, infected people can pass the virus onto friends and loved one with more fragile health.

Speaking Friday, Gov. Pete Ricketts complimented state citizens and businesses for complying with requests to holding down crowds, distancing themselves and isolating themselves even if they have “the sniffles.”

The DHHS points out that “flattening the curve” – “refers to the same potential number of cases appearing over a greater period of time. When a spike in cases occurs, health care resources can be overwhelmed. A flatter curve is slower, allowing people to recover and hospitals can continue to provide care to families, friends and neighbors who need it. Flattening the curve means everybody does their part to reduce spread for as long as possible.”

The agency points to a comparison between the 1918 responses by Philadelphia and St. Louis to the H1N1 flu.

Philadelphia didn’t want to cancel a major city-wide parade, for fear it would cause a panic. St. Louis, however, canceled its parade.

As a result, on Sept. 28, 200,000 Philadelphians watched a parade of floats and marching bands. The first flu cases showed up two days later, by the end of the week 2,600 had died and over the next few weeks, 12,000 had died of the flu.

Over the same time, only 700 people died of the flu in St Louis. Keeping people home saved thousands of lives.

The DHHS reiterated steps we all should take:

Community measures:

-- Practice social distancing which means put at least 6 feet of space between you and others.

-- Follow 10-person gathering limit guidance

-- Social and public gatherings are limited to 10 people.

-- Bars and restaurants are limited to 10 people and are strongly encouraged to move to drive thru, take-out, delivery only.

-- Child care providers should also follow the 10-person guidance with the goal of reducing class sizes and increasing space between children.

-- Grocery stores will continue operations but should prioritize ordering, pickup, and delivery.

Stricter measures are being imposed in Cass, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington Counties and will be in others as cases are diagnosed.

Personal measures:

-- Stay home if you are sick and avoid contact with sick people

-- Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

-- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

-- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.

-- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

We have to echo Gov. Ricketts’ observation that Nebraskans are stepping up, with local businesses offering curbside or delivery service, churches closing and offering online services, and organizations and private citizens doing everything they can to take care of their friends, families and neighbors.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: