The Nebraska Medical Center (NMC) is designated as one of the safest places in the United States, and possibly even the world, for people who are infected with rare illnesses.
In fact, this is the same facility that American patients infected with Ebola were sent a few years back, and it is now the place where some of the first COVID-19 coronavirus patients are being treated in the midst of the most recent outbreak. The facility houses a special containment unit that is only used every few years and is specifically designed to handle patients inflicted with the most dangerous and deadly illnesses.
The containment facility was built shortly after September 11, 2001, and the subsequent Anthrax scare, because US officials were concerned that there was no place to deal with sick patients who have been infected with a virus or other biological threat.
13 Americans who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship where they were exposed to the new coronavirus were also taken to the containment facility at NMC. It was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today that 11 of those 13 people have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
University of Nebraska Medical Center currently has ten people in the National Quarantine Unit while three are in the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. Most people aren’t showing symptoms of the disease, however, several others are showing some minor symptoms, and at least two are extremely ill.
A Nebraska Medicine spokesperson told reporters that anyone who has a positive test has to have two negative tests 24 hours apart before being released.
James Linder, MD, CEO of Nebraska Medicine, assured nearby Omaha residents that his team was "among the best in the world at handling situations like this," but recognized that there was some uneasiness in the local community about the presence of so many coronavirus patients in their back yard.
The number of cases is continuing to rise by the day. There are now over 76,000 confirmed cases of the illness, which has taken over 2,000 lives, although these statistics have been heavily debated, and are further confused by the fact that a variety of different tests and methods of confirming cases were used early on.
Researchers have recently discovered that the coronavirus is airborne, which means that it is far easier to transmit than initially believed. Experts are also suggesting that it is possible for someone to become reinfected by the virus after they heal, and that it could be far more deadly the second time around.
This virus has been compared to SARS, a similar coronavirus that saw an outbreak in China nearly twenty years ago, although this virus has proven to be far more contagious, possibly because it can stay on surfaces for much longer. Researchers are still unclear about how deadly the new coronavirus is when compared to SARS because the statistics have been unreliable thus far, and it is impossible to get an accurate reading for the mortality rate at this early stage in the outbreak.