Mask optional

With the change in the DHM that went into effect Monday, masks are no longer required at salons. Local stylists, including Main Street’s Mary Schwanz and Becky McCoy, are leaving it up to the clients.

Beginning Monday, Sept. 14, all health districts within the state of Nebraska have moved to Phase IV of the state’s Directed Health Measures (DHM). The state will continue to operate in this phase until Oct. 31 unless hospitalizations change dramatically. The move to Phase IV applies to every health department jurisdiction in the state, though Lancaster County intends to keep some Phase III restrictions in place.

The Phase IV DHM removes all restrictions from bars and restaurants, childcare facilities, gyms and fitness centers, salons and barber shops, and churches. It also removes restrictions from sporting events, as well as wedding and funeral reception venues. HOWEVER, the guidance for maintaining social distance of six feet and wearing masks is still recommended in these settings.

While the state DHM governs gatherings and businesses, schools and nursing homes/assisted living facilities operate under different guidelines. Dr. Todd Rhodes, Superintendent of Gothenburg Public Schools, said that the move to Phase IV will not change anything at the school as of now. “We are still considered to be in the Orange risk tier. We may change the amount of fans at activities, but that is a discussion we will have with Mr. Mroczek,” said Dr. Rhodes.

As of now masks are still a requirement for students and staff at GPS, and for anyone attending any school sponsored activity.

Local businesses also have the option of implementing masks or not. Flatwater Bank, for example, is choosing to still require masks to be worn by their employees and suggesting customers entering the lobby area wear them as well. Karl Randecker, CEO of First State Bank in Gothenburg, said the bank is asking their employees to continue wearing their masks, and while it is suggested for customers to wear them as well it is not mandatory.

One of the biggest changes we will likely see on a local level is in our hair salons, where masks will no longer be required for stylists or customers. However, every stylist we talked to in town intends to keep masks optional and leave it up to the client.

The new Phase IV DHM includes the following changes pertaining to gatherings:

Indoor gatherings will be limited to 75% of rated capacity.

Outdoor gatherings will move to 100% rated occupancy.

Six feet separation between groups remains in guidance.

Plans for reopening or expanding to new capacity limits must be submitted to the local health departments and approved for all indoor and outdoor locations/venues that hold 500 or more individuals before reopening is permitted. The reopening plan must contain a planned number of guests, how the location will meet social distancing guidelines, and sanitation guidelines.

The Two Rivers Public Health Department website now has detailed information on current Covid facts as well as newly updated county dashboards. While the health department is still not disclosing numbers of positive cases by community, it is now at least providing a more clear picture of the breakdown of overall district numbers.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported on Monday, Sept. 14 that Dawson County had experienced 43 new confirmed positive cases of Covid in the past 14 days. The new Two Rivers dashboard shows that the community of Gothenburg ranks third in the county in number of cases per 1,000 residents. The highest number of confirmed cases in the last four weeks has been found in the 18-29 years-old age group, with 50-59 years-old coming in a close second.

The small town of Sumner, which lies just on the northern edge of Dawson County, had a rate of 18 positive cases per 1,000 residents. Keep in mind that is simply a percentage figure, not actual number of cases. Sumner only has 222 residents.

Farnam has six cases per 1,000; Overton, 5.3 cases per 1,000; Lexington 3.9 cases, and Cozad, 1.9. Gothenburg’s numbers were 4.9 cases per 1,000 residents.

As of Sept. 14 there were 43 active cases, that is those who have tested positive and have symptoms of Covid in Dawson County, with a total of 72 cases in the past four weeks. The good news is we saw a sharp decline in the number of cases from the beginning of August to the end of the month. The total number of confirmed cases of Covid in the Two Rivers health district stood at 2,176 as of Sept. 14. There have been 16 Covid related deaths in the district, and 434 deaths statewide attributed to the virus.