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Rural Nebraska hospital battles COVID-19

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 8:53 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Right now COVID-19 cases in Nebraska continue to skyrocket and those rural communities are getting hit especially hard.

Pawnee County is one of them, part of a five-county health district that’s seen 831 new cases over the last month.

Early in the pandemic, Ruth Stephens said at the hospital they considered themselves fortunate, not having a case for a long time, while others were having outbreaks.

Now they’ve had 40% of their cases over the last two weeks.

“People might look at the numbers and say it is not very many, we only have 2,600 people in our county, so 55 cases is significant for us,” said Stephens.

Stephens said the hospital is actually one of the smallest in the state, with 11 beds.

But when they have two COVID-19 patients like they do now, it’s overwhelming for them.

And they can only take patients with mild symptoms.

“A COVID-19 patient that requires respiratory support or medications like Remdesivir, we’re not providing those services,” said Stephens.

If they’re too sick, they’re sending them to hospitals in Lincoln, which are filling up.

Right now, 60% of Lancaster County’s hospital patients are from outside of Lancaster County.

“But what if the big hospitals are full? What if the Lincoln and the Omaha’s and Kansas City’s are full? And then we’re stretched to take care of a patient we’re not equipped to take care of,” said Stephens.

Stephens said not knowing if they can provide the proper care for a patient is stressful for everyone.

10/11 NOW asked her what she thought December would look like for the hospital.

“If people don’t stay home, wear masks and social distance, I’m afraid to think of what that might look like,” said Stephens.

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