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Gage County sheriff discusses personal battle with COVID-19
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Gage County sheriff discusses personal battle with COVID-19

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The sheriff of Gage County is pleading with the public to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and follow health recommendations as he, himself battles the virus this Thanksgiving season.

Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson is currently recovering from home after a week at Beatrice Community Hospital.

He described his condition as being completely “zapped out” and is largely confined to a bed while taking oxygen treatments, with no idea how long it will be before he recovers.

Through several coughing spells, Gustafson, 65, implored the public to follow recommendations and limit Thanksgiving gatherings this week.

“It’s going to be a different Thanksgiving for a lot of people,” he said. “We need to wake up and smell the roses that this is not going to be a regular year. I always tried to wear a mask, and I’m going to make damn sure I have one on all the time now. I don’t know if anything is 100 percent but it certainly helps the cause. We need to help ourselves, or who’s going to do it for us? People have to understand that.”

Gustafson was in Deadwood, S.D. when he felt ill and went to a rapid testing station. He received results that he was positive for COVID-19 in around two hours and went home the next day, on Nov. 6.

He quarantined at Southeast Community College in Beatrice where rooms were set aside for sick students and first responders. He left on Nov. 13, the same day his wife would later call an ambulance to take him to the hospital due to his weakened condition.

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“I just wasn’t getting better and my wife finally called an ambulance for me,” Gustafson recalled. “I went out to the hospital and was in the COVID unit for a week. They had me on oxygen, I got a shot to my stomach every day and was on IV bags of different stuff. After a week there I came home and am on oxygen therapy for a while. We’ll see how it goes, it just absolutely zaps you. Little things you take for granted like brushing your teeth and going to the bathroom are now huge things.”

Gustafson said for him, the main symptoms were a persistent cough and lack of energy.

“I just have no strength whatsoever,” he said. “All I can do is go from the bed to the chair and back again. I’ve had the flu before and it was really different. To me, this is a lot worse than the flu. There are just so many unknowns and they were doing IVs on me approved by different places to see if it would work. This is stronger than the flu.”

Gustafson thinks he likely contracted the virus at the sheriff’s office, where six people have tested positive. He’s unaware of any inmates at the jail who have COVID-19.

Last week the Beatrice Board of Health enacted a mask mandate for the city, requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public places.

The mandate, which will be in effect until Dec. 15, states that individuals must wear a mask while in any indoor public facility, unless actively eating or drinking.

It also limits bars and restaurants to eight people per table, with no exemption for playing games, and no bar seating whatsoever. The board also specified that the mandate is required when individuals are utilizing indoor fitness centers.

Gustafson said he can’t stress enough how important it is that people follow the mandate.

“People are pretty upset over mandates and masks, but people have to understand we need to do that to protect ourselves or we’re going to have a problem,” he said. “It’s just important to understand. I was in pretty good health, I thought, but it doesn’t care who you are. It will come after you with a vengeance. It’s important to follow the guidelines and be very vigilant because this is not going away anytime soon. Go through it once and you’ll remember.”

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