Realistically, people knew the COVID-19 virus would rear its ugly head in Perkins County sooner or later.
Fortunately, it was later, but Perkins County can no longer claim it’s COVID free.
The Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department in McCook confirmed the first positive test in Perkins County in a release July 15.
SWNPHD said the case is female in her 50s, who is self-isolating at home.
Further contact tracing was completed to see who she may have been in contact with.
Neil Hilton, CEO of PCHS, confirmed Tuesday the first case was an employee of PCHS, working at Golden Ours Convalescent Home.
As of Tuesday afternoon, one more employee has tested positive, bringing the number of employees infected to eight. Four residents tested positive and have been placed in isolation.
Hilton said they learned of the first positive test late afternoon Tuesday, July 14. Immediately, they began implementing precautions to limit the spread and began testing.
He said the other residents were confined to their rooms and all employees began donning full personal protective equipment. That includes N95 masks, face shield, full length gown and gloves.
That protocol is still in effect and more testing will continue.
Testing machines at hospitals in Imperial and Holyoke have been utilized and can provide results in as fast as 30 minutes.
The big key going forward, Hilton said, is getting to a point where all tests are negative.
The virus appears to run its course after 14 days. When a person tests positive, they must quarantine for 14 days.
Hilton said he will continue to be as transparent about the situation as he can, within patient privacy laws.
As soon as the initial case was discovered, Perkins County Health Services posted on their Facebook page that “this case does involve a direct connection with PCHS.”
On Monday, SWNPHD reported eight additional Perkins County residents had tested positive for the virus.
They included a female in her 30s related to community spread while seven others got the virus through direct contact.
Those people exposed by direct contact included a female in her 20s, a female in her 70s, two females in their 90s, a male in his teens, a male in his 20s, and a male in his 90s.
Hilton said one new case in Chase County and two in Keith County are also employees of PCHS who work in the nursing home.
SWNPHD Director Myra Stoney said there has been a recent uptick in cases.
Since July 12, 22 new cases have been reported to her office.
Dating back to March, the official number of positive cases as of Monday stood at 49 in the seven-county district.
Stoney said 25 people have recovered against just one death.
Using contact tracing, the department has been able to identify and notify individuals who came in direct contact with a person who tested positive.
These individuals were given instructions to self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of exposure.
Direct contact means they were within six feet for 15 minutes or more of the infected person.
Anyone who had brief or minimal contact is at low risk and is not required to quarantine but is encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms.
Stoney said residents of southwest Nebraska should use caution when at gatherings or in public, including avoiding high-touch surfaces. She also urged people to wear a mask.
Choose outdoor activities when possible and avoid close contact in enclosed spaces, she said. Those who are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 should stay home.
For more info, go to www.pchsgrant.com or the district’s website at www.swhealth.ne.gov.