As schools hand out food to students and parents, a shortage of COVID-19 test antigens has forced Nebraska’s health officials to move away from testing and focus on prevention.

Public labs are experiencing a shortage of the CoVid19 antigen, Shannon Vanderheiden of the West Central Health Department said Friday, speaking at another in a series of press conferences with health, education and safety leaders in the community.


Here is Vanderheiden’s report, and other updates from Friday:

Vanderheiden said private labs have a supply of antigens, but do not test for free, implying that the costs would quickly mount.

She also said people who are infected with the corona virus are treated the same way as people with other respiratory illnesses.

The best preventative remedy is for everyone to refrain from social activities, and isolate themselves if they have a cough, trouble breathing or a fever over 100.4 degrees, and contact their medical provider.

If a contagious person exposes the public, it is easier to find and isolate 10 people who were at a gathering, rather than 50 or 100; thus, the national guideline to limit gatherings to 10 people.

Vanderheiden said known strains of flu are still circulating and there are plenty of tests that detect those strains in short order. A corona virus test is given if a known strain is not found.


North Platte public schools

North Platte School Superintendent Dr. Ron Hansen said the district aims to start online classes on March 30 and continue until May 15 — a 32-day time period.

Hansen said it will be an opportunity to try learning with a different approach and may change teaching in the future.

Hansen said more than 850 meals were distributed and more than 100 food packs sent home with families in the first two days of those services. A limited supply of tissues and paper towels were also given to those who need them, from bathroom supplies that are on hand.

He said the district’s goal is to keep its 4,000 students and 700 employees safe.

Hansen thanked the caring and cooperative staffs of the school and health facilities, families and the public.


Community college

Ryan Purdy, the president of Mid-Plains Community College, said classes have moved online, except the technical course, where smaller class sizes allow them to remain in their normal settings.

Housing and food services are available to the students on campus. The dorms are at 30% capacity. Those who could go home already have.


St. Patrick’s

The Catholic schools will remain closed until April 3, with a re-evaluation on April 5 as to whether buildings will remain closed for another two weeks, Supt. Kevin Dodson said Wednesday.

Nevertheless, the Catholic schools will start providing off-campus learning on March 23.

Teachers will be using a variety of E-learning methods, primarily Google Classroom. Some teachers will send packets home for work to be completed, Dodson said.

Many students have already received notification of an assignment from the teachers, as they “test the waters,” he said.

Assignments and tasks are expected to be completed by due dates. Questions from students about a course can be emailed to the teacher or sent via pass–a-note (whatever their teacher prefers).

Drop boxes are available in the front entry-way of both schools for teachers who prefer to use the “hard-copy” method. Staff members are learning about “Zoom” in hopes of providing a face with their instructions.

School staff will be available to answer questions and concerns from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday-Thursday, he said.



Megan McGown of Great Plains Health said the hospital is able to limit personal contact with coronavirus victims and prevent it from spreading there. Physicians talk to patients remotely (tele-conference); the nurse wears protective gear; and vital signs are monitored through robotic equipment named “Rosie.”


Care homes

Nolan Gurnsey, the administrator of Linden Court, also spoke at the press conference Friday morning on behalf of the nursing homes. He also thanked the residents’ families for being patient and following the guidelines. For more of his report, click HERE.


George Lauby contributed to this report.