In the middle of the night, Samuel Harvey, a freshman mechanical engineering major, said he still hears the medical helicopter delivering coronavirus patients to the CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island.
The Central District Health Department reported that Hall County, where Grand Island is located, has the largest number of COVID-19 cases of all Nebraskan counties. There have been 1,042 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday and 28 deaths. Out of the 1,042 confirmed cases, 988 are in Grand Island.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln students currently back home in Grand Island due to the coronavirus said watching the number of cases climb right at home is scary. Although they said they feel safe themselves, the students think people in Grand Island aren’t doing enough to protect everyone else in the city.
“I think that we’re starting to realize how bad this is getting now, but I still think we’re not taking it seriously enough,” Kylee Sodomka, a freshman sports media and communication major from Grand Island, said. “Even though you’re starting to see a lot of major changes, that wasn’t happening right away, there are still people that I see that aren’t wearing masks or they’re still hanging out.”
As of April 21, more than a third of the coronavirus cases were tied to the JBS USA beef plant in Grand Island, according to a press release from the Central District Health Department. While the amount of coronavirus cases in the JBS USA beef plant is one of the larger contributors to the outbreak, Sodomka said the spread has happened from people failing to social distance.
“It was just because people weren’t taking it as seriously and now the numbers are too high to start thinking about going back down again,” Sodomka said.
Harvey said his family has been social distancing to stay safe, and they only leave the house for essentials like groceries. He said he wears a mask when going out and tries to keep his outings short to minimize the risk of being exposed.
“I mean, I feel pretty safe just because I don’t have to be out and about,” he said. “ ... Most of my family can also do all their stuff from home.”
Leavitt Reno, a freshman business administration major from Grand Island, said it was scary to watch the increasing cases in Spain in the beginning, especially since her sister had just returned from studying abroad there. After her sister returned, the cases in Grand Island began to increase.
“We watched the spike of cases happening in Spain, and then we’re watching it happen in our own hometown,” she said. “It’s kind of a surreal experience.”
Reno said a few of her high school friends have tested positive for the coronavirus, but she said she hasn’t seen anyone other than her family while they have been social distancing. She said her friends are slowly recovering, but others she knows are being infected still.
“I’m very worried about my friends,” she said in a text. “The fact that I know people with COVID gives the disease more of a ‘face.’”
Harvey said many restaurants are still open for take-out and businesses have reduced hours to clean more thoroughly, but Sodomka said she thinks Grand Island can still do more to reduce the spread.
“There is always something more we can do,” she said. “It’s just a matter of are they willing to close businesses and to take out major areas that people need. It’s just a matter of if people are willing to do this for the public rather than for the money.”