HASTINGS – On Tuesday evening, 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 and urging use of prevention layers to limit COVID-19 spread.
“Our cases continue to trend up. Everyone is safer and we can reduce spread of coronavirus if we aggressively use layers of prevention,” Bever said. “The more layers we can use, the better. We know these layers work to limit the spread of the virus and 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.
“Most importantly, please get your COVID-19 shots so you are fully vaccinated. When used together with other layers of prevention in our schools, worksites, churches, and community settings, we are all better protected,” she said. “The vaccines are our best defense against COVID-19, protecting us from severe illness and hospitalization due to infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Bever said.
The health department logged 54 new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending August 21, nearly 40% higher than the previous week. For the current week, SHDHD already received reports of thirty-three cases by end of day Tuesday, for a cumulative total of 5,121. The department also reported another death of a previously reported case, bringing the total to 95 deaths since the pandemic began in early 2020. COVID-related deaths are not reported until confirmed by death certificate.
“Based on new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days (ending August 24), our counties have substantial or high community transmission,” Bever said. The district, overall, had 130.5 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.
Overall weekly positivity (percent positive tests) was 11.4% (high transmission) in the South Heartland District. For the general population (i.e., excluding long-term care residents/staff), the community positivity was 16.7% (high transmission) for the week ending August 21, while percent positive tests in long-term care facilities remained at zero for the 13th week in a row. Hospital capacity metrics as of August 23 showed 10% of hospital inpatients were COVID-19 positive and 55% of the staffed ICU beds were available.
“The good news is that more people have been getting vaccinated each week over the past 3 weeks,” Bever said. “Nearly 45% have received at least one dose, and just over 40% are fully vaccinated. We obviously still have some ground to cover to reach a level that is protective in our communities, but we are encouraged to see the recent increase in demand for vaccine.”
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.