Douglas County Health Department Opens Coronavirus Hotline

Feb. 7, 2020, 4:04 p.m. ·

Volunteers at the Douglas County Health Department take calls about coronavirus. (Photo credit Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)

The Douglas County Health Department has established a hotline for questions from the public about the coronavirus and Nebraska’s role in quarantine.

The hotline opened Thursday morning and received about 30 calls the first day. That number is expected to increase with the arrival of a plane carrying Americans from Wuhan, China today.

The calls are answered by volunteers who have been given detailed information about the virus. Some of the volunteers can answer questions in English and Spanish.

Dr. Anne O’Keefe is senior epidemiologist for the Douglas County Health Department. She says in general, callers are very interested and at times concerned about the virus.

“A lot of people want to know some basic information about coronavirus and how it’s spread, what they can do to protect themselves," O'Keefe said. "Some people have questions about the plane that’s coming and what kind of precautions are being taken for that. Some people have complaints and we listen to them.”

For questions that are beyond the volunteer’s knowledge, O’Keefe or another expert is on site at the call center.

“And also if there are questions that are specific to certain parts of the response that we’re not directly doing, like our federal partners, the public health service, we have a direct line to them, so we can always get those questions answered,” O'Keefe said.

Douglas County opened a similar hotline in 2014 when Ebola virus patients were treated at the Biocontainment Unit in Omaha. At that time they received approximately 300-400 calls.

The information line will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at (402) 444-3400.