HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever reported on current COVID-19 conditions in the South Heartland District. The district COVID-19 risk moved to 3.0, into “severe” risk (red).
Bever said key measures used to determine the level of risk have worsened, including the health care capacity (ICU bed availability, ventilator availability, number of COVID patients requiring hospital care) and the average daily new cases reported to the department. Positivity continues to remain above 15%, which is indicative of severe community spread.
Bever said the movement of the SHDHD risk does not automatically result in changes to school plans. “The school districts each have their own phased COVID plans,” she said. “They use the risk dial as one tool in making their decisions about how best to provide instruction and activities, keeping in mind the safety of students and staff. We believe that it is best for the health of the students and best for the overall health of the community to keep students in school and we are working closely with the schools to maintain that objective as long as we can,” she said.
Bever reported that fourteen school districts in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties are affected by COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Overall, there were 260 students and staff out from PreK-12 schools including thirty-nine (39) individuals (33 students, 6 staff) in isolation due to testing positive for COVID-19. “The schools continue to do a good job assuring COVID prevention practices are in place to protect their staff and the students,” she said. “We continue to encourage school families and community members to follow their example.”
As for healthcare settings, Bever said there are nine long-term care facilities in the South Heartland district with staff, residents, or both who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 2 weeks. In addition, today there were twenty-one (21) patients being cared for in South Heartland hospitals due to COVID-19, including seven (7) requiring critical care and five (5) needing ventilators.
Bever noted that with twice-weekly testing of staff at long term care facilities (LTCF), which is required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the amount of testing in the district has increased dramatically. “Forty-eight percent (48%) of the tests last week are attributed to long term care testing, but only 0.01% of the LTCF test results were positive,” she said. By comparison, twenty-nine percent (29%) of the test results from the community (non-LTCF) were positive. “We will begin reporting out separately the LTCF positivity and community positivity for a more accurate picture,” she said.
South Heartland’s average number of daily new cases for the 14 days ending November 7 was 73.6 per 100,000. “If we had low community spread, we would expect an average of eight or fewer new cases per day per 100,000,” Bever said. “Already, in the first four days of this week, we have received 196 positive lab reports, averaging 49 cases per day, which equates to an average of 108 new cases per day per 100,000,” she said.
Bever reminded residents that guidance for severe COVID spread includes staying at home when symptomatic, maintaining six feet of distance from people you don’t live with, and masking up to reduce risk of close contact exposures. “Our hospitals, locally and across Nebraska are feeling the strain. If hospitals are caring for patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19, they have less capacity to care for any of us or our loved ones when we have other critical needs, like strokes and heart attacks,” she said. “We can all help reduce this burden by avoiding the three Cs: avoid Crowded places, avoid Close Contact and avoid Confined spaces,” she said.
“We are urging you to help protect our hospitals, keep our schools open, and keep our local workforce healthy so our businesses may thrive and our loved ones – young and old – and their caregivers remain healthy,” she said. “It is up to all of us to take care of our communities.”
The levels of risk for COVID-19 spread are indicated on the risk dial as low (0-1.0, green), moderate (1.0-2.0, yellow), elevated (2.0-3.0, orange) and severe (3.0-4.0, red). The COVID Risk Dial & Community Guidance can be found on SHDHD webpages at www.southheartlandhealth.org. 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/