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Phase 4 doesn’t mean it’s over here

Phase 4 doesn’t mean it’s over here

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Central Nebraska and most of the state are going into Phase 4 of coronavirus reopening guidelines on Monday.

But this is not the time for us to throw away our masks and stop paying attention to how close we are to other people.

As Teresa Anderson, health director of the Central District Health Department, said earlier this week, “We’re going into a critical period of time where we may in the next few weeks see increasing numbers of cases, based on what the experts tell us.”

Restaurants will have their salad bars open, but we can use some common sense by wearing a mask to the salad bar and trying to maintain a gap between people filling their plates.

Salons, fitness centers and other businesses will be back to operating without restrictions, but we still can wear masks when we go there, maintain social distancing and use hand sanitizer regularly.

The possibility of an increase in COVID-19 cases with the reopening is especially important to our community’s schools, as addressed by Grand Island Public Schools Superintendent Tawana Grover at the district’s school board meeting Thursday.

“Therefore, as we (the Central District) move into Phase 4, there is no major, immediate impact or changes to GIPS,” Grover said. “We will remain in our GIPS Reimagined model and will continue to implement the safety protocols we have in place.”

Students and GIPS staff member will continue wearing masks at school because that protects everyone and lessens the possibility of someone who unknowingly has contracted the virus spreading it at school.

The district has emphasized communication with its students and their families throughout the pandemic. It’s latest step in meeting its families’ needs for information has been creating an online dashboard that displays data from the Central District Health Department on the number of COVID-19 cases among GIPS students and staff.

The weekly data will be tracked from Friday through Thursday.

As of Thursday, the dashboard shows 42 GIPS students are quarantined and two have tested positive. Seven staff members are quarantined and four have tested positive.

Those numbers are that small a month after the district’s schools reopened because GIPS has been so conscientious about protecting the health of its students and staff members.

A total of 66 Nebraska counties, including Hall, Hamilton and Merrick, will move from Phase 3 to Phase 4 on Monday “unless hospitalizations dramatically change,” according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

We can celebrate the move to Phase 4. It is an accomplishment that recognizes how well our state has done in prevention and the fact that our state’s medical facilities have not been seeing more patients than they can handle.

But the pandemic is not over and we must remain vigilant.

Anderson’s basic advice as we enter Phase 4 is to continue wearing a mask whenever you are close to other people and maintain social distancing as much as possible.

And get a flu shot. You don’t want to have to worry about flu, too.

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