The Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department will be the third district in the state to move to less restrictive Directed Health Measures (DHMs) in dealing with COVID-19.

The southwest district covers nine counties: Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Perkins and Red Willow. The less restrictive measures will start Aug. 1.

As of July 27, the southwest district has had 70 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Under the lighter phase 4 measures, restrictions on bars, restaurants, childcare facilities, salons, receptions, and gyms are lifted. Indoor gatherings are allowed at 75% of room capacity, and outdoor gatherings are allowed at 100% of capacity.

Keeping social distances and wearing face coverings are still recommended.

“Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department continues to work closely with the public and partners to monitor the spread of the virus in the health district. Even with a recent upward trend of COVID-19 cases due to a cluster we’re actively managing, the health district is still reporting the lowest numbers in Nebraska,” health director Myra Stoney said.

The transition to Phase 4 of the DHMs does not change an individual’s personal responsibility for reducing virus transmission, Stoney said.

“We understand the need for our communities to get back to normal, but please think of those people you meet every day who need your continued protection and vigilance,” she said.

Two other districts in the state have also moved to Phase 4 — the North Central District and the Loup Basin district.

The north central district includes Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce and Rock counties.

The Loup Basin district covers Blaine, Custer, Garfield, Greeley, Howard, Loup, Sherman, Valley, and Wheeler counties.

The “cluster” that Stoney referred to are cases in Perkins and Keith counties.

There are eight Keith County residents – a woman in her 20s and a man in his 80s, both related to community spread, a woman in her 30s and an infant boy, both under investigation, as well as four others related to direct contact with a case in Perkins County — a woman in her 20s, a male in his 20s, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 60s.

There are nine Perkins County cases – one man and eight women, all over the age of 80 and related to direct contact, Stoney said.