HASTINGS — The first positive case of COVID-19 has come in Adams County.
Hastings Mayor Corey Stutte held a press conference on Thursday to talk about the case and what that means for the community of Hastings.
“Today we are here to talk about a pandemic that has attacked one of our own citizens, and that’s COVID-19,” Stutte said.
Michele Bever, director of the South Heartland District Health Department, said they received confirmation of the first positive COVID-19 case in the SHDHD area.
A woman in her 40s traveled to Europe and arrived back on March 12 and quickly began self-isolating.
Bever said the woman began experiencing symptoms four days ago and continued self-isolating and contacted the health department.
Bever said as soon as they received the positive result, they began a contact investigation to identify all of the people that may have been exposed so they can take appropriate steps to minimize the spread.
Susan Meeske, the vice president of student enrollment at Hastings College, said 106 members of Hastings College traveled to four different countries — England, Spain, France and Ireland — in early March.
Meeske said the students returned to the United States on March 12, which was the same day France and Spain went to a Level 3 Travel Advisory.
All of those students went into self-quarantine upon returning to the United States, as per Centers of Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.
“Since returning home, all of the participants have been adhering to the self-quarantine guidelines and report any symptoms directly to the health department daily,” Meeske said.
Meeske said the woman who tested positive, which she had the woman’s permission to share, was Jessica Allen-Pickett, a faculty member on the Spain trip.
The students and faculty on the Spain trip flew from Madrid to Philadelphia to Omaha.
Meeske said Allen-Pickett’s symptoms are mild and she is in good spirits and upbeat.
Meeske said they are grateful Allen-Pickett and her family took the recommendations seriously and have been doing their part in minimizing the spread.
Eric Barber, the CEO and president of Mary Lanning Healthcare, said they have guidelines in place, including only allowing two visitors at a time per patient and screening all visitors through the north entrance, and they are doing their best to prepare to take care of any patient with COVID-19 who needs hospitalized.
One thing they are doing starting next week is limiting the number of elective procedures so they have staff and supplies on hand if they need it.
Mayor Stutte said the community was built by pioneers and has conquered many battles and this is just another battle the community faces.
“We’ve always won the war,” Stutte said. “To win this war, it will require people to heed warnings, to heed social distancing and heed hygiene issues that we really need to be paying attention to.”
Stutte said small businesses are still open in Hastings, but it may look a little different.
He said people should remember that they are there, buy gift certificates or find other ways to support local businesses at this time.
Stutte said the government is closing offices, but assured residents they will get the help that they need, saying there are drop-off windows for payments at City Hall and the online utility bill payments in which the fees will be waived during this time.
Stutte also said that Hastings Utilities would not be shutting off utilities due to not paying bills through the end of April and it will be re-evaluated as they go.
“Hastings is open for business,” said Stutte. “It might just look different for a while.”