Discussing the virus

ANSWERING QUESTIONS at a press conference in Norfolk on Monday afternoon are (from left) Kelly Driscoll, CEO of Faith Regional Health Services, interpreter Karen Blank and Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning.

Guidelines for testing for the COVID-19 virus have evolved in just a few weeks.

Kelly Driscoll, CEO of Faith Regional Health Services, said testing initially was only through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Driscoll said it next expanded to include Nebraska Medicine and some commercial labs. Nebraska Medicine is a private, nonprofit facility based in Omaha.

Faith Regional does get tests and send in the results, but it doesn’t do the lab work. That goes through an approved lab, she said.

Early on, the public health departments determined who was tested and when testing took place. Now with more commercial labs providing testing, the providers decide that based on their clinical judgment, Driscoll said.

Gina Uhing, health director at Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department, said there had been 115 COVID-19 tests as of Monday so far in the department’s service area, which includes, Madison, Stanton, Cuming and Burt counties.

Uhing said there have been 96 negative tests, two positive tests and 17 pending tests.

Later Monday evening, it was announced that a Norfolk health care provider had tested positive for COVID-19.

Potential exposures are being investigated to determine what steps to take next, the health department said in a press release. All identified patients will be put in self-quarantine and monitored twice a day for fever and respiratory symptoms.

The provider is not a resident of the the health department’s district, and the health department was made aware of the case Monday evening.

In Antelope County, a positive case of the COVID-19 virus was reported there. The individual who tested positive is in quarantine, along with his or her family, according to the North Central District Health Department.

There is a low risk of exposure for people who were at:

— Casey's General Store in Neligh at noon on last Wednesday.

— Clearwater Market between 1 and 3 p.m. last Wednesday and at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Uhing said because of the limited number of tests available, there will not be mass testing at St. Joe’s — where the latest test was confirmed.

However, those who become symptomatic or show a reasonable suspicion of infection will be tested, Uhing said.

Driscoll said the St. Joe’s staff has actually been doing what is called “active monitoring” since mid-March. That includes checking temperatures twice a day and other symptoms before and after each shift, which will continue.

“We also have a self monitoring of all our employees at Faith Regional Health Services as well, where we’re doing self monitoring of temperatures at least eight hours apart and monitoring for symptoms as well,” Driscoll said.

The hospital also has an off-site testing clinic that is not open to the public. It is up and functioning and doing tests daily, she said.

While the hospital would like to be able to test everyone who wants to be tested, the state doesn’t have the capabilities yet to do that, Driscoll said.