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10 Lancaster County cases tied to Smart Chicken in Waverly
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10 Lancaster County cases tied to Smart Chicken in Waverly

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Ten Lancaster County residents have contracted COVID-19 because of spread within the Smart Chicken plant in Waverly, interim Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez said Friday.

Five of the cases were employees and the other five were relatives or close contacts of the employees, she said.

This is the second Lancaster County worksite cluster; health officials have connected nine cases to the Smithfield plant in Lincoln.

Still, the outbreak of the coronavirus among workers at the Smithfield meatpacking plant in Crete remains the largest contributing source of new cases in the county.

To date, health department staff have identified 192 Lancaster County cases stemming from the Crete plant. That's one of every three local cases.

Lopez said about half of the employees at the plant, which has about 2,000 workers, have been tested, and testing will continue as long as necessary.

Overall, Lincoln reported 21 more cases Friday afternoon, and to date has recorded two deaths, including one person who had been hospitalized and succumbed to the illness this week. The community total is now 530.

Lincoln hospitals Friday tended to 38 people, including 12 Lancaster County residents. Six COVID-19 patients were on ventilators, Lopez said.

She said the hospitals were capable of accepting new patients Friday, which marked the end of the first week of the gradual restart of elective surgeries.

This week, Lancaster County confirmed its most new coronavirus cases during the pandemic, which Lopez and Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird have attributed to the increase in testing and the Crete outbreak.

Testing affiliated with the statewide initiative Test Nebraska began Friday at the Lancaster Event Center, and drive-thru testing continued at the sites operated by Bryan Health and CHI Health in north and south Lincoln.

Lincoln and Lancaster County will implement eased restrictions beginning Monday, after Gaylor Baird and her health director reluctantly agreed to adopt the plans Gov. Pete Ricketts sought.

The new restrictions match those already in place in Omaha and elsewhere in the state and allows for the reopening of barbershops and tattoo parlors provided staff and patrons wear face masks, and give restaurants the ability to serve half the number of diners their establishments can hold.

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Photos: Lincoln during the pandemic

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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