Health department moves to Phase 4 of health directives
Starting this Saturday, the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department (SWNPHD) jurisdiction will become the third local health department in the state to move to Phase 4 of the Directed Health Measures (DHMs).
What that means is that most of the restrictions in the DHMs have been totally lifted, while others are eased.
The move to Phase 4 was announced in a news release Tuesday afternoon.
Myra Stoney, SWNPHD’s director, said even though there is a cluster of recent positive COVID-19 cases in the district, the SW district is reporting the lowest numbers in Nebraska.
“The transition from Phase 3 to Phase 4 of the DHMs does not change an individual’s personal responsibility for reducing virus transmission,” Stoney said.
“As we move into this new phase, your actions are more critical now than ever before. We all want to feel a sense of normalcy, but we must do it safely,” Stoney said.
“Please continue to do these very simple acts of kindness, so you can be secure in knowing that you are not the cause of someone’s sickness or death,” she added.
She said practicing safety measures such as maintaining good social distancing, wearing a face covering when appropriate, washing hands frequently and staying home when you are sick is everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Significant Phase 4 changes
Phase 4 removes most restrictions that limited gatherings for public events.
Bars, restaurants, salons, health clubs, bowling alleys, childcare facilities and churches can resume normal operations.
They are still urged to follow safety practices such as social distancing, frequent hand washing and/or use of hand sanitizer and mask use as appropriate.
People who are feeling sick or showing possible signs of COVID-19, should remain at home.
Fair could have occurred in P4
Phase 4 directives eliminate the restrictions that caused the cancellation of the Chase County Fair & Expo Aug. 9-16.
In outdoor venues, 100% of occupancy will now be allowed.
This change would have allowed the Friday and Saturday night concerts, and accompanying beer sales to proceed.
In discussions between the fair board and SWNPHD earlier this month during Phase 3 guidelines, the health department sought guarantees from the board that social distancing guidelines would not be violated.
In addition, the health department classified the beer sales at the concerts as a “beer garden,” which was also prohibited in Phase 3.
Under those conditions, fair board members voted unanimously to cancel the fair for what is believed to be the first time in its history.
The fair board is meeting tonight (Thursday) to discuss what impact, if any, a move to Phase 4 has on their decision to cancel fair activities.
Efforts to contact the health department for comment prior to deadline were unsuccessful.
Two other districts in Phase 4
The Loup Basin Health Department in central Nebraska moved to Phase 4 on July 24.
The North Central District Health Department, which includes nine counties along the state’s northern border, will also move to Phase 4 on Saturday.
The rest of Nebraska’s counties remain in Phase 3 of the DHMs until Aug. 31. However, state and local health departments will continue to evaluate progress.
The SWNPHD covers nine counties: Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Perkins and Red Willow.