Busy Omaha coronavirus testing site to close this week

Bryan Testing

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A busy coronavirus testing site in Omaha is closing this week, so local health care providers are seeking another way to provide more testing in the area, which is home to several meatpacking plants and a large Hispanic community.

More than 1,900 of Douglas County’s more than 12,000 coronavirus cases have come from just one ZIP code in the area near the southeastern Omaha testing site, officials said. The state’s main testing service, TestNebraska, operates three drive-through testing locations elsewhere in Omaha, but none of them are close to southeastern Omaha.

“We do need another option in our community,” said Andrea Skolkin, the CEO of OneWorld, a health center based in that part of the city. “Particularly east Omaha, it doesn’t seem like anyone is paying attention. … South Omaha is the hot zone. I don’t understand it.”

Matt Miltenberger, Gov. Pete Ricketts’ chief of staff, said the state is looking for locations to set up a TestNebraska site in southeastern Omaha.

“We want to be up ASAP,” he said.

The current drive-through testing site in southeastern Omaha that can test up to 300 people a day has been a joint effort of OneWorld, the Douglas County Health Department and other groups.

The site has been staffed primarily by Nebraska Medicine employees for the past eight weeks. But a hospital spokesman said those employees are needed back at their regular jobs now that Nebraska Medicine has resumed most of its normal operations, including elective surgeries that were put on hold during the spring.

Skolkin said her health center is currently testing about 50 people per day at its locations and that it might be able to increase that to 100, but the private lab it uses has longer waiting times for test results.

The TestNebraska program relies on an online registration process that Skolkin said might not be as effective in southeast Omaha because many people in the area have lower incomes and don’t always have reliable internet access.

Miltenberger said TestNebraska has found ways to be flexible with its sign-up requirements in the past, and officials are trying to figure out a way to deal with that issue in southeastern Omaha.

“From our standpoint, we want to get as many people tested as possible,” he said.

According to the state’s online virus tracker, Nebraska reported 262 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 30,825. The actual number of cases is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested and some people don’t show symptoms. There state’s COVID-19 death toll is 368.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska decreased over the past two weeks, going from 293.86 new daily cases for the seven days that ended Aug. 4 to 266.71 new daily cases for the seven days that ended Tuesday.

Categories: Coronavirus, Nebraska News