HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever provided a weekly update to keep residents informed about COVID-19 in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.
“Cases continue to increase week over week in South Heartland counties. Last week we received 62 lab results positive for COVID-19 compared to 54 the week before,” Bever said. “We only logged 37 cases for the whole month of July.”
For the current week the department had already received 74 case reports by end of day Tuesday. Bever said more than a third of these recent cases are young people. “So far this week, 36.5 percent of the cases were under 20 years old, compared to 26.8 percent for the month of August overall and 21.6 percent for the month of July,” she said.
SHDHD’s overall weekly positivity (percent positive tests) was 13.7% (high transmission). For the general population (i.e., excluding long-term care residents/staff), the community positivity was 21.4% (high transmission) for the week ending August 28, while percent positive tests in long-term care facilities remained at zero for the 14th week in a row, although Bever said the department was aware of some positive results in long-term care that had not made it through the formal reporting system yet. Hospital capacity metrics as of August 31 showed 5% of hospital inpatients were COVID-19 positive and 36% of the staffed ICU beds were available within South Heartland district hospitals.
“Based on new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days (ending August 31), our counties all have high community transmission,” Bever said.
The district, overall, had 228 new cases per 100K in the past seven days. Webster County had the highest rate of the four counties, at 258 new cases per 100K in the past seven days. More than 100 new cases/100K in seven days is considered high community transmission; low community transmission is under 10 new cases per 100K in seven days.
Bever said symptoms of infection with the Delta variant are the same as other COVID variants. This includes a wide range of flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, sore throat and congestion or runny nose. Loss of taste and smell is another common symptom that is typical with COVID infection. Some people may show very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. People who are unvaccinated and people who are age 65 or older, or who have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or immunosuppression, are most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 infection.
“If you have any underlying health conditions, please protect yourself with as many layers of prevention as you can. The more layers you are able to use, the better. We ask everyone to be considerate of the health of their friends, neighbors, work colleagues, and other community members by using these layers of prevention,” Bever said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and it is the best layer of prevention we have.”
“We know these layers work to limit the spread of the virus and more importantly to limit the severity of COVID-19 illness. So, please, stay home when you are ill or have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, practice good hygiene like washing hands and not touching your face, wear masks in public, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and avoid crowded spaces and confined indoor places,” she said.
Bever urges residents to get fully vaccinated. SHDHD is holding weekly walk-in COVID vaccination clinics with Pfizer vaccine on Wednesdays through the month of September, 5-7 pm, at the west end of the Allen’s building, 1115 W. 2nd Street in Hastings. Families are encouraged to bring their children age 12 and above (minor children must be accompanied by parent or guardian). Others are also welcome. Enter at Allen’s west door; masks are required. Participants may register in advance at vaccinate.ne.gov.
Bever encourages residents to contact their personal doctor or the health department if they have questions about the vaccine. Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.
SHDHD’s vaccine webpage (southheartlandhealth.org) includes a list of locations offering vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. The list is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted, and, if needed, how to make an appointment at each site. In addition, many health care providers in the district are offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients.