“Significant” number of 100 COVID-19 cases linked to Omaha daycare confirmed as U.K. variant

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – The Douglas County Health Department on Friday said over 100 positive cases of COVID-19 — a “significant” number of them the UK variant — have been traced to a northwest Omaha daycare; and that a possible second outbreak tied to “an event” is under investigation.

DCHD said that more than half the Rosewood Academy Childcare and Preschool staff and “attendees” had been affected by the B.1.1.7 variant outbreak, and that contact tracing investigations confirmed the outbreak had originated at the daycare.

Justin Frederick, supervisor of communicable disease epidemiology for Douglas County, said officials were working to determine whether another possible cluster of positive cases was linked to the U.K. variant confirmed at the daycare. As the investigation is still underway, he couldn’t specify anything more about the potential second potential outbreak other than to say that the setting was “an event.”

The health department said the outbreak is of particular concern because the UK variant is more easily spread and because children seem to be more susceptible to contracting it, noting that several cases of the variant have been confirmed in Douglas County.

“It is crucial that childcare providers get vaccinated,” Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said. “Childcare providers are eligible for the vaccine and can easily make an appointment on the DCHD website.”

Frederick said the outbreak is not unique to Rosewood; it can happen at any type of school.

DCHD on Friday repeatedly underscored the need to continue those preventative measures health and government officials have been emphasizing throughout the pandemic, and urged everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccination when they’re eligible.

“We really need to stress the importance of childcare workers getting vaccinated. This is not the time to let down your guard,” DCHD spokesman Phill Rooney said, noting that walk-ins who qualify for a COVID-19 vaccination are welcome at Saturday’s clinic at Girls Inc.

He said the number of positive cases in the community is similar to the levels the area saw last summer, which underscores the importance of focusing on prevention.

“We really need to get those people in those positions that are so vitally important marking them vaccinated. The British variant definitely is here, and it’s making its presence known,” he said.

DCHD reminds everyone — particularly those working with children — to keep up with the basics in COVID-19 prevention: wash hands, wear masks “whenever you are around unfamiliar people and in this case at childcare facilities.” The health department also stressed that “quarantine and isolation procedures need to be followed.”

“Just keep your mask up; wash your hands. And if you’re sick, stay home — and get the vaccine is at the first opportunity,” Rooney said.

One of three Rosewood Academy locations in Omaha, the location near 158th and Fort streets was indicated as “temporarily closed” on Google Maps on Friday afternoon.

Frederick said Rosewood Academy could open as soon as Monday, if they want, having completed their required 10-day quarantine period. He said the daycare has been cooperative with the health department investigation and that both entities worked together to notify those who were or could be infected.

Rosewood Academy issued a statement Friday afternoon, noting that the outbreak had been contained to only the northwest Omaha location, which had been closed since March 18. Even before that, the daycare had been going “beyond the requirements of public health experts and sent children home if they presented a fever above 99 degrees,” the release states, as opposed to the 100.4-degree threshold recommended by the CDC.

“The health and safety of children, families and staff are the top priority of Rosewood Academy Childcare and Preschool. The spread of the United Kingdom (UK) variant at Rosewood Academy aligns with anywhere it is present – it spreads more easily, and children are more susceptible to it. Procedures and protocols for prevention are the same as other variants of the virus, utilizing thorough screening processes, hand washing and cleaning procedures with staff members, children and families.

Before closing our Northwest location on March 18, Rosewood Academy went beyond the requirements of public health experts and sent children home if they presented a fever above 99 degrees, rather than the 100.4 requirement. A difficulty with the highly transmissible UK variant is that children are often asymptomatic during daily temperature screening procedures.

For more than a year of navigating the pandemic, because of strict procedures and vigilant practices, all three Rosewood Academy Childcare and Preschool locations stayed open without interruption until the UK variant caused many of the COVID-19 infections involving staff members and children at our Northwest location. The outbreak has been limited to one location.

Rosewood Academy Childcare and Preschool continues to work closely and proactively with the Douglas County Health Department and families. Families and staff are receiving ongoing communication and instruction on quarantine requirements before returning to Rosewood Academy and Preschool. Staff members are expected to continue to report COVID symptoms and are required to fulfill quarantine requirements outlined by the Douglas County Health Department after any positive test result, which has always been the procedure since the arrival of the virus. Rosewood Academy Childcare and Preschool will continue to work closely and cooperate with the Douglas County Health Department to monitor this situation and encourage families and staff to get the vaccine as quickly as they are able.”

Rooney said it’s not yet known exactly how the UK variant arrived in Douglas County, but that travel is often how that happens.

“There’s a saying we have with the health department: that the next outbreak or next pandemic is only a plane ride away,” he said. “People do move all around the globe, all across the country, and that’s great — but there are some things that we have to be aware of.”

Clarification: A previous version of this story indicated all cases tied to Rosewood Academy had been confirmed as the U.K. variant, when some of the cases cannot be confirmed as such, according to a DCHD spokesman.

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