Douglas County Health Director 'hopeful' as COVID-19 case numbers trending down
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour, and other officials gave an update on the local COVID-19 response Thursday, with news about the city's budget shortfall and the announcement that
Pour said she felt hopeful today. On May 30, there were 1,114 new cases of COVID-19 in Douglas County with a positivity testing rate of 13.45 percent.
Last week, there were 848 cases. This week, there are 341 new cases.
"As you can see... trying to be careful but celebrate good news. At least we are not going up in case counts," she said.
The total number of cases in Douglas County is 5,433 as of Thursday. A total of 40,635 tests have been administered in the county.
About 80 percent of positive cases are among the working population, Pour explained. About 76 percent of cases are minorities.
There has been a total of 54 deaths in the county, including one reported Thursday. 73 percent of deaths are age 65 or older.
"Only 9.4 percent have no co-morbidities," she said. "Minorities make up 40 percent."
Hospital capacities in the county include 74 percent of beds available, with 124 COVID-19 patients in the county are currently hospitalized. 38 percent of ventilators are available.
Venues planning to hold events of 1,000 or more people can fill out
Stothert said Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will hold a press conference next week to announce details about the next phase of reopening and easing restrictions in the state.
On block and emergency funding grants, Stothert said the city has received $4.2 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
To allocate the monies quickly across the community, a committee was founded with representatives from several facets including education, health, city maintenance, housing, food banks and more.
Four different areas were identified as priorities: housing, workforce, food security and nonprofit support.
The Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MAACH) will receive $1.54 million. Other organizations that will receive funding after City Council approval are Northend Teleservices, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, One World Health Center Urban Indian Health Coalition and others.
Randy McCoy, executive director of MACCH said when the pandemic came to the community, they began to look at the longterm impacts to housing.
"With the funds, we will create a short-term rental assistance program to help individuals stay housed and launch a project with Legal Aid Nebraska to help with eviction court cases," McCoy said.
Other updates Stothert provided: law enforcement officers and members of the Nebraska National Guard who worked during the protests, rallies and demonstrations in Omaha have been tested for the virus. So has the fire department.
Five or six firefighters have tested positive today, she said. Stothert added the wait for results was about 48 hours as she was tested Monday after being at the protests and received her negative results Wednesday.
Steve Curtiss, Omaha's finance director, said initial projections of the city's revenue losses were in the range of 10 to 20 percent.
The restaurant tax for March and April was down 15 to 30 percent. About $22 million in budget cuts were made to "blunt" what was coming, Curtiss said.
At least $2 million in overtime was paid to police because of protests over the past 10 days. A better picture of the city's revenue losses will come Monday with more numbers being reported to the city, he added.
As of Thursday, the total deficit the city is facing is about $70 million.
Stothert said the city is preparing to open "at least the three indoor pools we have," at Montclair Community Center, Common Ground Community Center, and Mockingbird Hills Community Center.
However, outdoor swimming pools will not be open this summer.
"It's not practical to open the pools with 25 people or less under the current directed health measures," Stothert said.
Parks and Recreation Director Brook Bench said community centers are ready to reopen and plans are being worked on to still have summer camp programs.
Stothert was asked about Council Bluffs planning to open up their outdoor pools. She said Omaha has more pools than Council Bluffs does and faces a larger challenge to hire and train workers. The other issue is not knowing when restrictions will be lifted while Iowa's restrictions are different.
Splash pads are open. Hydrant parties are being planned, Bench said.
Asked about the city's revenue shortfall and options, Stothert said the Douglas County Board of Commissioners presented a tentative plan Tuesday on some funding, and said raising taxes is not even an option for this year, even if she wanted to -- which she does not.
"The worst thing that could happen is we wouldn't get any money. Then we would really have a problem in the City of Omaha," she said.
The county board will have to coordinate with the State of Nebraska on how funding received from the federal government to assist cities with COVID-19 expenses is allocated.
After hearing of the soldiers who tested positive, Mayor Stothert has arranged for all 900 Omaha Police officers to be tested through Friday including the chief. During the protests, officers were working 12-hours shifts for days.— Brian Mastre WOWT (@brianmastrewowt) June 11, 2020
City is preparing to reopen Omaha's three indoor pools - Common Ground in Elkhorn, Montclair and Mockingbird. Date to be determined. Outdoor city pools will stay closed. @WOWT6News— Brian Mastre WOWT (@brianmastrewowt) June 11, 2020