Cutouts of Homecoming King Jace Moss and Queen Ashlyn Gosnell are held by Senior First Attendant Jaxon Preble and Senior Second Attendant Diana Kollars during the homecoming parade on Friday afternoon as the King and Queen were in quarantine. The homecoming dance was postponed until Oct. 10.

Box Butte County is the first county in the Panhandle to move into the high-risk category for COVID-19 spread as the number of positive cases continues to grow within the county.

The announcement came on Monday afternoon from COVID-19 Unified Command, attributing the move to the surge in cases in the past three weeks. As of press time, Box Butte County has seen a total of 115 cases, with 22 active, 92 recovered and 1 death. Officials said in a press release that the county is at high risk of COVID-19 spreading.

“In the past two weeks, Box Butte County’s overall positivity rate has increased 21.8 percent according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS),” the release stated. “Cases have increased weekly over the past three weeks and community spread of the virus remains high at more than 50 percent of cases. The vast majority of cases within Box Butte County are occuring in Alliance.”

Officials urged all Box Butte County citizens to continue monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 and to get tested if symptoms appear.

“Please continue all of the important precautions to protect you, your loved ones, and your community from the spread of COVID,” the release stated. “Wear a mask when possible, stay at least six feet away from others, monitor for any symptoms, and stay home if you are not feeling well. Please practice these safety tips out of an abundance of kindness and humility for others.”

The number of COVID-19 cases have also had an impact on the schools, notably with the homecoming dance that was set for Oct. 3 being postponed until Oct. 10. The homecoming parade, the first parade in Alliance since the virus began to spread, still took place on Friday afternoon, featuring a number of floats with messages to galvanize Bulldog pride.

However, many students, including Homecoming King Jace Moss and Queen Ashlyn Gosnell, were in quarantine last week, including during the parade. The number of quarantined people reached at Alliance High School peaked at 77 last week.

As of press time, there have been a total of 13 positive cases at Alliance Public Schools with one active at AHS and another active at the Early Childhood and District Team, according to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard. A total of 70 people were listed as quarantined in the district as of Monday evening.

Other schools in the Panhandle have seen COVID-19 activity in their districts as well. As of press time, Chadron Public Schools had a total of 15 cases, which have recovered, and seven people in quarantine. Scottsbluff Public Schools has had 11 cases, with two active and nine recovered. A total of 23 people were listed in quarantine according to the COVID-19 Dashboard. Chadron State College has had a total of 53 cases since the semester began, with four active and 49 recovered.

As the coronavirus spreads in the region, other counties have seen increases in positive cases. The region has had a total of 967 cases with 116 active, 842 recoveries and nine deaths. Banner County has had two cases, which have recovered; Cheyenne County has had 51 cases, with seven active and 44 recoveries; Dawes County has had 142 cases with 11 active and 131 recoveries; Deuel County has had five cases, which have recovered; Garden County has had 13 cases with three active and 10 recoveries; Grant County has had two cases with one active and one recovery; Kimball County has had 24 cases with six active and 18 recoveries; Morrill County has had 81 cases with two active and 79 recoveries; Scotts Bluff County has had 461 cases with 50 active, 403 recoveries and eight deaths; Sheridan County has had 63 cases with 13 active and 50 recoveries; Sioux County has had seven cases, which have recovered.

Free testing is available through Test Nebraska at multiple locations in the Panhandle. People can sign up through Test Nebraska at testnebraska.com or by calling 402-207-9377. In Alliance, testing is available at Box Butte General Hospital Monday through Friday from 9 to 10 a.m. The testing site is located in the ambulance bay on the east side of the emergency department.

In Chadron, testing is offered at the Chadron Community Hospital on Mondays and Fridays from 7 to 9 a.m.. Collections are located at 821 Morehead Street.

Community Action Health Center in Gering offers tests on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 a.m.

In Gordon, testing is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m. at Gordon Memorial Hospital.

Regional West Health Services in Scottsbluff offers tests Monday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m.

Sidney Regional Medical Center offers tests on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 a.m.

Morrill County Community Hospital in Bridgeport offers tests daily, with same day results.

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