When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, a group of officials was created in southeast Nebraska to organize communication and prevention efforts throughout the area.
Known as Unified Command, the group made a decision to disband this week as case numbers continue to fall in the area. Brain Daake, who was the commander of the group and is also the chief of Beatrice Fire and Rescue, said during the peak of the pandemic Unified Command was holding virtual meetings daily, but was meeting on a monthly basis when the decision was made to dissolve the group.
“It’s been a year,” he said. “When we set it up we did it kind of like a flood response, but quickly found out this was much bigger than that. We were coordinating between different agencies and making sure we were on the right path to protect the public.”
Daake said Beatrice Fire and Rescue has not transported a patient with COVID-19 since March 25. Based on the latest information from Public Health Solutions, last week there were eight reported cases in Gage County, and 26 across the entire five-county area the group serves.
Rescue workers still take the same precautions used during the peak of pandemic when responding to calls, Daake added.
Unified Command consisted of nearly 30 members who represented a variety of groups, including Public Health Solutions, local governments, Beatrice Community Hospital, Southeast Community College and Beatrice Public Schools, among others.
A primary responsibility of Unified Command was to localize national recommendations and updates, passing them onto the public under a unified voice during a time when information changed rapidly, leading to confusion about the cornonavirus.
“(Unified Command) was just about the bigger picture,” Daake said. “The hardest part was the constant change and not knowing what we didn’t know. For most of us, it was more of the isolation that was the biggest pain.
"We started off meeting three times a week, then daily, then down to twice a week, once a week then monthly. It was very dynamic. It was a great group of professionals and we had a lot of good interactions. It was a pleasure serving with them remotely.”
Unified Command is not related to the Beatrice Health Board, which was the organization responsible for implementing a mask mandate in Beatrice last year.
While COVID-19 numbers have been down, Daake said it’s still wise to use caution moving forward.
“For right now, just still kind of be careful,” he said. “It’s still out there. Make your own decision on vaccinations, to do it or not, and just keep maintaining the course of trying to be healthy and safe.”