HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department has confirmed the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant of COVID-19 virus within the health district, which encompasses Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties in south central Nebraska. The variant results were confirmed in a previously reported case who was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
South Heartland staff continue to investigate COVID-19 cases, as they have since the first local case was identified in March, 2020. “With the development and spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants, our processes have intensified – we watch for “red flags” that the disease may be caused by a variant, such as younger individuals with different or more severe symptoms or hospitalized, positive cases in individuals fully vaccinated for COVID-19, reinfections in people who previously tested positive for COVID-19 and travel to locations known to have outbreaks involving variants,” said Jessica Warner, SHDHD’s lead disease investigator.
“Our goal continues to be to reduce the spread of this disease through contact tracing and prevention steps, especially educating residents on what they can do to protect themselves and others from severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19,” Warner said.
“The good news is that the COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus variants,” Bever said. “If you haven’t been vaccinated, don’t wait. Getting your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine soon means you could be fully vaccinated before the first football game and other fall activities. It means that you are protecting yourself, your loved ones, and others,” Bever said.
News from around the country is showing outbreaks of the Delta variant in low vaccination areas and also associated with camps or sports facilities where vaccination rates of attendees or participants is low. Bever said COVID-19 vaccination rates in South Heartland are well below the national averages. In the U.S. overall, 48% are fully vaccinated and 56% have received at least one dose. In South Heartland’s four-county area, only 38.5% of all residents are fully vaccinated and just 41% percent of all residents have received at least one dose of vaccine.
Bever is encouraging anyone 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She said it requires three or four weeks between doses of the mRNA vaccines (the Pfizer or Moderna, respectively) and another two weeks after the second dose until your immune system has had a chance to respond and you are considered fully vaccinated. With the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine only one dose is required followed by two weeks to be considered fully vaccinated.
All three vaccine products – Pfizer BioNTech, J&J Janssen, and Moderna – are available in the health district. 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 required, how to make an appointment. In addition, many health care providers in the district are offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients.
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.