Nebraska 'on fire' with COVID, says top official

The nurses at the Nebraska Medical Center are stretched to their limits as COVID-19 patients push the hospital past its capacity.

It's the United States' only federal quarantine unit, used during previous health crises like the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

And it's designed to isolate and contain highly contagious diseases.

However, the virus' grip on the Midwest has left the center's medical specialists struggling with cases double what they were in the spring, and no sign of stopping.

Dr. Mark Rupp is the center's Chief of Infectious Diseases. He says they may soon have no choice but to selectively admit COVID-19 patients.

"In Nebraska in particular and within the upper Midwest in general, we're really just on fire. COVID is spreading very rapidly person-to-person throughout the community in a, in a most alarming fashion."

For the past two weeks, thousands have been diagnosed with COVID-19 every day in Nebraska, a state with a population of only around 2 million.

Rupp says Nebraska was not hard-hit by the United States' first wave of the virus, and that too many Nebraskans may have thought they were safe from what they saw elsewhere on TV.

"If they have their Thanksgiving gatherings and they continue to frequent bars and restaurants and gym facilities and pass this virus from person to person, then there's no reason we can't become what New York looked like back in March."

But without a statewide mask mandate and with the Thanksgiving holiday just days away, Rupp fears the situation may only get worse.

He's calling on all Americans to hold off on celebrating with family this year in the hopes of getting to see them again next year.

"It's just not worth it, you know. It's unfortunately sort of our year with COVID and I think what we need to hold out for folks is that next year at this time, I'm very hopeful that we're going to be able to have joyous family gatherings and holiday celebrations."

Video Transcript

- Can I get two floor preps, please?

- Two floor preps, yeah.

- The nurses at the Nebraska Medical Center are stretched to their limits, as COVID-19 patients push the hospital past its capacity.

- You have what you need for pressers?

- It's the United States' only federal quarantine unit, used during previous health crises like the Ebola outbreak in 2014. And it's designed to isolate and contain highly contagious diseases. However, the virus's grip on the Midwest has left the center's medical specialists struggling with cases double what they were in the spring and showing no sign of stopping.

Dr. Mark Rupp is the center's chief of infectious diseases. He says they may soon have no choice but to selectively admit COVID-19 patients.

MARK RUPP: In Nebraska in particular, and within the upper Midwest in general, we're really just on fire. COVID is spreading very rapidly person-to-person throughout the community in a most alarming fashion.

- For the past two weeks, thousands have been diagnosed with COVID-19 every day in Nebraska, a state with a population of only around 2 million. Rupp says Nebraska was not hard hit by the United States' first wave of the virus, and that too many Nebraskans may have thought they were safe from what they saw elsewhere on TV.

MARK RUPP: If they have their Thanksgiving gatherings and they continue to, you know, frequent bars and restaurants and gym facilities and pass this virus from person to person, then there's no reason that we can't become what New York looked like back in March.

- But without a statewide mask mandate and with the Thanksgiving holiday just days away, Rupp fears the situation may only get worse. He's calling on all Americans to hold off on celebrating with family this year in the hopes of getting to see them again next year.

MARK RUPP: It's just not worth it. You know, it's unfortunately sort of our year with COVID. And I think what we need to hold out for folks is that next year at this time, I'm very hopeful that we will be able to have joyous family gatherings and holiday celebrations.