Within the past week, two students of Alliance Public Schools tested positive for COVID-19, as the virus spreads throughout the region.

On Aug. 26, Superintendent Dr. Troy Unzicker confirmed that a student at Alliance Public Schools tested positive for COVID-19, although the student was not physically in the school.

On Aug. 29, an elementary student at Alliance Public Schools tested positive for COVID-19. The student was last in the building on Aug. 24. COVID-19 Unified Command noted that they are conducting an investigation in conjunction with Alliance Public Schools to determine if other individuals would need to quarantine.

According to the Alliance Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard, one of the students who tested positive was a student at Alliance Middle School, and the other was a student at Grandview Elementary. To date, 22 people have been quarantined at Alliance Public Schools, and 36 people have been sent home with symptoms of COVID-19.

A number of schools throughout the Panhandle have reported students or staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. At Chadron Public Schools, 12 people have tested positive, though there have been 11 recoveries, and 10 people quarantined. At Chadron State College, a total of 27 students and employees have tested positive, though there have been 21 recoveries. At Scottsbluff Public Schools, there have been three positive cases, with 19 people quarantined.

The number of positive cases in Box Butte County has climbed to 26, as of press time, with seven active cases, and 19 recoveries. On Aug. 25, Unified Command confirmed one child under 19 and one adult in Box Butte County tested positive for coronavirus, which were both the result of community spread.

On Aug. 27, one adult tested positive for COVID-19 in Box Butte County, with an unknown exposure type. The following day, one child under 19, and one adult in Box Butte County tested positive for coronavirus. Both cases were the result of close contact. The latest cases in Box Butte County were announced on Aug. 31, involving two adults. Both cases were the result of community spread.

As of Aug. 31, there have been a total of 634 cases in the Panhandle since cases started being tracked in March. There were 76 active cases, 552 recoveries and six deaths as of Aug. 31.

In a press release from Unified Command, officials detailed how the Centers for Disease Control classified deaths from COVID-19, noting the susceptibility of people with underlying conditions.

“According to the CDC’s website as of August 31, 182,622 US people have died from COVID,” the press release stated. “COVID is still the third leading cause of death in the US. The information the CDC shared does not change anything, it is how the deaths are being interpreted.

“The CDC has consistently stated that individuals with underlying health conditions are more likely to die from COVID. This is one of the facts that public health was aware of since the beginning of the COVID pandemic,” the press release stated.

Unified Command noted that 60 percent of adults have a chronic health condition, with individuals age 65 and older having more chronic cases.

“Death certificates have multiple lines and include the ‘immediate cause of death,’ ‘sequentially conditions leading to the cause of death,’ and ‘other significant conditions contributing to death.’ It would be unusual that a chronic condition was not listed on a death certificate in the US given the health of our nation overall and how COVID impacts every organ system,” the press release stated.

On Aug. 26, Unified Command announced that the Panhandle would remain under Phase Three of Governor Pete Ricketts’ Directed Health Measure until Sept. 13. On Sept. 14, the Panhandle will enter Phase Four, which lifts restrictions on bars and restaurants, childcare facilities, churches, gyms and health clubs, salons and barber shops, sports events, and wedding and funeral receptions.

Restrictions will remain in place for gatherings, with indoor gatherings being limited to 75 percent of rated occupancy. Outdoor gatherings are allowed 100 percent of rated occupancy.

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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