- Associated Press - Friday, May 15, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska will require long-term care centers to develop formal plans outlining how they’ll keep the coronavirus from spreading among the vulnerable residents who live in those facilities, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Friday.

Facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living centers will have to submit plans to state regulators explaining how they intend to identify ill people and deal with visitors for the rest of the year. They’ll also have to discuss their disinfection protocols.

The announcement comes as state officials scramble to keep the virus from spreading among long-term care facilities, whose residents are generally older and have underlying health problems.

Long-term care residents are among the hardest-hit population groups in Nebraska, accounting for at least 75 of the state’s 113 coronavirus deaths. At least 82 long-term care facilities have reported coronavirus cases in Nebraska, including 35 with cases among residents.

Nebraska health officials reported a one-day jump of six COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, as new cases were reported among police and several Omaha-area nursing homes.

Ricketts said state officials will consult with long-term care facilities on the project. The plans will also focus on residents’ mental health needs, he said.

Six deaths from the coronavirus were reported Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 113, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The state’s total number of cases since the outbreak began jumped to nearly 9,500. Nebraska’s hospitals still have a large number of beds, intensive-care unit space and ventilators if needed, according to the department’s online virus tracking portal.

The numbers were reported as the Good Samaritan Society nursing, long-term and hospice care facility in Omaha reported 15 infected residents - including three residents who have died. The Omaha World-Herald also reported Friday that 68 cases of the virus have been confirmed among residents and staff of Life Care Center in Omaha’s Elkhorn community, while 10 residents and one staff member at the CountryHouse in neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa, had tested positive as of Friday.

The Omaha Police Department also reported a sixth officer testing positive for the virus.

State health officials said it’s not practical to test all of Nebraska’s long-term care residents because such testing would have to be repeated to ensure no new cases have emerged.

“A test just tells you whether you’re positive or negative at that point in time,” said Dr. Gary Anthone, the state’s chief medical officer.

For some infected people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness or death. But for most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.


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