Skip to main content


What is Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person-to-person. COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that had not been previously identified.

How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday) to kill germs on your hands and prevent the spread of germs to others. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and rub into your hands for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because if you picked up the virus, you could infect yourself by allowing the virus to enter your body.
  • Social distance yourself from others whenever possible. Try to keep a distance of six feet apart when out in public. Avoid any unnecessary outings to public places including events and other large gatherings. Stay home whenever possible.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, shortness of breath and dry cough. Some people with COVID-19 have also experienced aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.

Is Great Plains Health allowing visitors at this time?

Great Plains Health is currently limiting visitors due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The current visitor policy can be viewed here.

All visitors entering the hospital will be greeted by a door monitor or security personal for a brief screening process prior to entering. The will be asked the following questions:

  • Do you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath that is new to you?
  • Have you traveled outside any of the travel restricted areas in the last 14 days?
  • Have you had contact with anyone with confirmed COVID-19 that you know of in the last 14 days?

What should I do if I suspect that I have the Coronavirus?

Call your primary care provider and explain your symptoms. They will help you decide if you need to be tested or not.

Can someone die from COVID-19?

Yes, although most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Approximately one out of six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people with compromised immune systems or those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

How would I get tested for the Coronavirus?

Currently, the criteria for testing includes; fever, cough, shortness of breath, or fever and cough, or fever and shortness of breath. High priority patients to test include: pregnancy, patients who are immunocompromised (IE: those that have a reduced ability to fight infections and other diseases, such as individuals who have cancer), exposure to someone with confirmed COVID-19, a healthcare worker, a hospitalized ICU patient or a nursing home resident.

The recommendation is to obtain a respiratory panel first to rule out other respiratory viruses. If the panel is negative and symptoms or criteria indicate, your physician together with the West Central District Health Department will determine if you meet the criteria for a COVID-19 test. Not every person that wants to be tested can be. In order to ensure an adequate supply of testing and to the preserve the resources for those that should be tested (defined by the CDC), testing is approved only for those people who need it.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has accurate and informative information at

In addition, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has set up a coronavirus (COVID-19) information line that allows residents to get answers to general questions and receive information on resources available. That number is 402.552-6645; hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST, 7 days a week.

How can I get accurate and current information on confirmed cases in Nebraska?

Go to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website at The State updates this site daily.

What should I do if I recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19?

If you have traveled from an affected area, there are restrictions on your movements for up to two weeks. If you develop symptoms during that period (fever, cough, trouble breathing), seek medical advice.

Call the office of your health care provider before you go, and tell them about your travel and your symptoms. They will give you instructions on how to get care without exposing other people to your illness. While sick, avoid contact with people, don’t go out and delay any travel to reduce the possibility of spreading illness to others.

Daily updates on countries added to the travel restriction list are available at

Where did COVID-19 come from?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people.

How do I clean and sanitize right now?

Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).

Will the hospital and clinics have enough supplies to manage the COVID-19 event?

Great Plains Health has ordered as many supplies as needed for now and the foreseeable future. This week, FEMA authorized the release of the strategic national stockpile (SNS) that will infuse more medical supplies into Lincoln County.

What will happen if we have a positive case of COVID-19 in Lincoln County?

A positive case will be announced by West Central District Health Department. If the patient requires hospital care, they will likely be sent to Omaha to the National Quarantine Unit or Bio-containment Unit.

What is Great Plains Health doing to prepare for a possible spread of COVID-19?

Great Plains Health has a pandemic plan in place (a surge plan) that has been expanded to COVID-19. We have been working closely through the Lincoln County Joint Incident Command Center and West Central District Health Department to ensure that we are getting the right information and the right testing at the right time to the people who need it most.

We are also taking precautions at our own facilities by limiting the number of people coming through our doors, ensuring proper protection of our patients, employees and providers. We are embracing technology such as tele-health whenever possible to limit exposure and are limiting travel and large meetings for our employees.

We are screening our employees daily as they enter the building for their shifts.

PLEASE NOTE: As the COVID-19 situation evolves, information and instructions may change. What is recommended today may change. Please be prepared for new and different information as the situation rolls out.

When did the first case of COVID-19 occur in the United States?

The first U.S. case was announced Jan. 21, 2020, in Washington state.

What is the source of the outbreak?

We know that the closest coronavirus relatives of this current virus are all harbored in Asian bats and it is most likely that the virus was recently introduced into the human population from an animal source in China. Initial cases appear to be linked to a live food market in Wuhan, China. Investigations are ongoing to determine the virus' source and mode of transmission.

Why is this virus so dangerous? Why are people worried?

People are very worried as this is a new infection and there is a lot we do not know about it. It is dangerous because it is new, so no humans have had any prior infections with it, therefore no one is immune to it. Although most cases are mild, given our global population, even a small percentage of significantly ill people results in a much higher burden of patients requiring hospital care.

Is COVID-19 a pandemic?

Yes, there is broad global spread of COVID-19, consistent with a pandemic.

Can the pandemic be stopped?

The COVID-19 infection has spread globally at this time. The burden of infection suggests a large proportion of people will contract the infection before we have a capacity to slow, or stop, the current transmission.

Will warmer weather kill the virus?

No one knows for sure. We do know that there's a cold and flu season, and approximately 15 percent of colds are caused by one of the coronaviruses. People tend to get fewer colds in the summer, so there's a chance that warmer weather and more sunlight might slow the spread of this new virus.

What do experts know so far about the severity of the illness caused by COVID-19?

Most reported cases have been mild (similar to a cold). However, some cases have resulted in severe pneumonia that requires patients to spend time in a hospital, and a small proportion of victims have died. We currently do not know enough about the illness to predict who will develop more severe disease, but current data indicate that older age and underlying disease (COPD, diabetes, immunosuppression, etc.) may be risk factors.

Why is there so much attention on COVID-19 when influenza kills thousands every year?

New diseases, because of some degree of ambiguity, always generate more concern. We don’t pay as much attention to illnesses such as influenza – even though it results in 25,000 to 50,000 deaths per year in the U.S – because we know what to expect and have become used to the yearly influenza epidemics.

week in health e-newsletter

Get the week's top health stories in your inbox every Friday.