Health Department Reports Reduction in COVID Cases; Community Transmission Remains High

HASTINGS – The South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever provided COVID-19 updates for the four-county health district which serves Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.

The health district logged 130 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases last week (ending October 9) and received another 42 so far in the present week.  The cumulative total since the beginning of the pandemic is 6,173 in the four-county district, with county totals of 4,030 in Adams, 959 in Clay, 674 in Nuckolls and 510 in Webster. The health department also received more sequencing results from previously reported cases, all of which were identified as the Delta variant lineage.

Bever reported fewer people sought testing last week (down by 10% compared to the previous week) and the number of positive lab reports was also lower (down by 14% compared to the previous week). She said South Heartland’s overall positivity dropped below 10% this week (8.9% is substantial community transmission, in the orange level), but that community positivity (which excludes test results from regular surveillance testing long-term care facilities) remained at 18.4% (red level: high transmission).

The health director also reported a reduction in the confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days. This metric dropped to 210 cases/100K, but still indicates a high (red) level of community transmission. “We are glad to see these reduced case rates, but not ready to state this is a clear downward trend. South Heartland will continue the local COVID-19 Advisory for our counties while community transmission levels remain high,” Bever said.

Bever also shared good news from the hospital capacity dashboard. As of October 12, there were only four COVID inpatients (12% of all inpatients) and one ventilator in use and 85.7% of staffed intensive care unit beds were available in South Heartland hospitals.

Bever said the department is receiving COVID-19 positive lab results on individuals associated with various events and gatherings. Also in the past two weeks, six skilled nursing or assisted living facilities in the health district have had staff or residents or both who tested positive for COVID-19, and several child care services also were experiencing COVID-19 cases and exposures.

“People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days to reduce spread of the illness. For people who are exposed to someone with COVID-19, we continue to recommend quarantine,” Bever said. “The take-away is that the pandemic is not over and we need to continue practicing prevention. The more layers you can use, the better. One of these layers is to stay home when you have any symptoms,” she said.

Bever said people looking for information on what to do when they test positive for COVID-19 can find step-by-step instructions on the South Heartland website: southheartlandhealth.org.

“The best protection against COVID-19 is vaccination. The vaccines are very safe and highly effective in reducing risk of severe COVID illness that leads to hospitalization,” Bever said. “It’s not too late to get your first and second shots and we are encouraging people to take advantage of the widely available, no-cost vaccine to start or complete their vaccination steps and protect against COVID-19.”

South Heartland’s vaccine webpagesouthheartlandhealth.org, provides a list of locations offering vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. The list of vaccine providers is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted and, if needed, how to make an appointment at each site. Bever said many health care providers in the district are also offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients and that residents should consider getting their COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same visit.

SHDHD is holding weekly walk-in COVID vaccination clinics with Pfizer vaccine on Wednesdays through the month of October, 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 COVID-19 vaccine, additional doses for immunocompromised individuals, booster doses, or COVID-19 testing.  Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.

Bever said people looking for COVID-19 testing may refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org, to find a list of testing sites, types of tests offered, and hours when testing is available.

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