HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported on SHDHD’s COVID-19 Risk Dial, which provides a summary of current COVID-19 conditions in the South Heartland District. “The needle on the risk dial decreased slightly to 1.9 or ‘high moderate,’” said SHDHD executive director Michele Bever.
“Based on the past two weeks, I would describe our district to be at high moderate to low elevated (yellow/orange) risk level. In terms of actions to take, we encourage residents to review the level-specific recommendations that go along with the yellow and the orange risk levels.” she said. “In addition to following the state directed health measures for our counties, we encourage you to take action on the recommendations that will reduce the spread of the coronavirus in our communities and best protect you and your family, your co-workers and others in the settings that apply to you – wherever you live, work, worship, recreate, or go to school.”
Bever reported that some factors included in the risk dial calculations had improved compared to the previous week. The positivity rate decreased to 4.4%, down from 7.5% the previous week, and the rolling three-week positivity average decreased slightly for the first time in 8 weeks. Also, the number of cases decreased (net decrease of 29%) compared to the previous week.
“Having a TestNebraska site up and running at Mary Lanning improves the testing availability in our district,” Bever said. “On the other hand, we saw an increase in the average number of close contacts per positive individual, as well as new positive tests and exposures in individuals associated with schools and colleges in our district,” she said.
Bever said the risk dial is just one tool that can help residents know the general risk of COVID-19 spread in the health district. The COVID Risk Dial & Community Guidance can be found on SHDHD webpages at www.southheartlandhealth.org. The document includes recommendations for the general public and for at-risk and vulnerable individuals. It includes actions for home, at work and in public.
The levels of risk for COVID-19 spread — low (green), moderate (yellow), elevated (orange) and severe (red) – are determined using a variety of indicators, such as overall positivity rate, weekly positivity rate, trend in number of cases, health system capacity, ability to trace contacts, average number of contacts per case, availability of COVID-19 testing, average length of time for people with symptoms to be isolated, and availability of vaccine. The risk level also takes into account other factors, such as compliance to social distancing requirements and use of face coverings in public settings.
South Heartland District case counts and trends can be found on SHDHD’s dashboard of local COVID-19 case statistics. This dashboard, along with updates, guidance, news releases and other COVID-19 information and links can be found on the SHDHD website: www.southheartlandhealth.org. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides daily updates to Nebraska’s coronavirus COVID-19 cases on their Data Dashboard at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/