Nebraska Universities and Activities Association Evaluate Coronavirus Options

March 10, 2020, 5:15 p.m. ·


Nebraska is continuing to respond to the first cases of COVID-19 in the state. The affects could be felt in many areas of life in Nebraska.

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Public Health Officials Monitor Coronavirus

Health departments are on the front-lines of response to the coronavirus. The Lincoln/Lancaster County Department of Health says those under quarantine locally are monitored twice a day by phone for symptoms and so far, nobody has showed any signs of COVID-19. More commercial testing is becoming available for the virus.

Tim Timmons is a communicable disease program supervisor for the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department. He said the health department wants to make sure those with symptoms don’t infect others while seeking care.

“We are encouraging individuals who have symptoms and believe they may have COVID-19 to not just walk into a provider office or a hospital but to call ahead,” Timmons said. “And let them know so that they can prepare and meet the individual before they come in, put a mask on.”

Timmons emphasized that most healthy people who get COVID-19 will be just fine, but he expects community spread to arrive in the Lincoln area.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Considers Options

A few K-12 school districts have closed this week, and Midland University has moved classes online. Lincoln and Omaha public schools are on spring break this week.

UNL is open this week and spring break there is scheduled for the week beginning March 22nd. The university has suspended all international study abroad or university sponsored travel for students. They have not cancelled large gatherings, but cancelling events would happen in conversation with public health officials and state and local authorities if necessary.

Deb Fiddelke is chief communication and marketing officer for UNL. She said the university is starting to prepare for the possibility of online learning.

“We’ve instructed our faculty to utilize the tools that we have online for posting course materials to start to think about how they could administer exams if they needed to do so in an online environment,” Fiddelke said. “And we’ve also asked them to go through a checklist and make sure that they have the tools that they need to be able to do this, such as perhaps, you know, do you have a camera in your laptop or do you need to purchase one?”

UNL has also been informed some students have traveled back from South Korea and Italy, and some members of the UNL community were at the basketball tournament in Fremont where a person with COVID-19 was in attendance. Fiddelke says these individuals are following public health instructions after their possible exposure.

Nebraska School Activities Association Evaluates Options for Boys Basketball Tournament

The boys basketball high school tournament is scheduled to start Thursday. The NSAA currently has no plans to cancel the event. The NSAA encourages players and fans to use common sense and good hygiene. They ask that if people don’t feel well, they should stay home from the tournament.

The NSAA is also considering options in case the coronavirus outbreak worsens. Some options include playing in empty gyms or delaying the tournament.

Jay Bellar is executive director of NSAA. He said there are downfalls to those options.

“We’ve talked to, 'Can we host something with no fans?', we’ve talked to, 'Can we wait two or three weeks and do it at that point in time?'” Bellar said. “The trouble with that is, you know how busy Devaney and Pinnacle Bank are, and they’re just booked all the time. So that’s hard to do. Playing a championship game without the fans in there, boy, I just don’t know how that would go. Or that’s something that we could talk about at this point in time, too.”

Banking and Finance Department Urges Caution In Case of Scams

Similar to a natural disaster situation, there may be people out who try to take financial advantage of the confusion around this disease. The Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance says to look out for offers advertised with little to no risk. All investments have risk. They also say to be wary of urgency in the investment. If it’s a good offer, it will be around tomorrow. Investors can also check that the person offering the investment is registered with the appropriate securities regulators.

Claire McHenry is deputy director for the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance's security bureau. She said when markets are in flux and people are under stress, their judgement can be impaired.

“Any time that there is a uncertainty out there, such as when the flooding happened last year, or during this time with the coronavirus, people are uncertain and afraid and that’s when poor decision-making can happen,” McHenry said. “So we make sure that people are aware that con-artists can take advantage of this and they should be cautious.”

Other Coronavirus Updates for Nebraska

An American who had been in quarantine after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship has been cleared to leave. Seven Diamond Princess passengers remain in quarantine.

The Department of Health is running coronavirus tests, most of which have been negative so far. About a dozen are still being tested.

The Omaha tribe is issuing a travel ban for all tribal and government employees to places with known coronavirus cases.

Health insurers on Nebraska’s affordable care act exchange are covering the cost of the covid-19 test when medically necessary.

Sarpy County is mailing early voting applications to all voters, “with current events in mind.” Polling places will still be open May 12.

Will Bauer also contributed reporting to this story.

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