HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported completing COVID-19 data updates over the weekend as a result of recently receiving 153 positive lab report results for individuals tested September 2020 through January 2021. Although the reporting of these results to South Heartland was delayed, SHDHD executive director Michele Bever said the positive cases are now included in the cumulative totals of cases for the district and the department incorporated them into the dashboard based on the dates the testing was conducted. Bever said the cases are not current cases and were not included in last week’s positivity calculations.
The department also identified and removed 25 duplicate lab result records after completing a data accuracy review. The result was a net total increase of 128 cases for South Heartland’s four-county region. “SHDHD strives for high data accuracy and regularly reviews the lab results data, making corrections if lab-confirmation status, county of residence, duplicates or other reporting issues are identified,” Bever said. “To date, COVID-19 case corrections have totaled to less than one half of one percent of the total confirmed cases in South Heartland health district.”
Bever said that reporting of positive labs from months past has allowed pending COVID-19 death confirmations to be processed by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “For a death to be confirmed as a COVID-related death, the death certificate needs to state COVID-19 as a cause of death AND there needs to be a positive lab result,” Bever said.
“We are sad to report 20 additional deaths of South Heartland residents that occurred October 2020 through January 2021 and have finally been confirmed to be COVID-19-related deaths,” Bever said. “This includes 6 deaths in Adams County, 11 in Nuckolls County and 3 in Webster County, bringing our overall COVID-19 deaths to 88 and increasing the case fatality rate to 1.8% for South Heartland.”
Bever said the department also received 12 lab-confirmed COVID-19 results in the past four days (April 9 – April 12), including eight in Adams County, two in Clay County and two in Nuckolls County. These new cases, along with the delayed reported labs and data corrections, brings the cumulative number of cases in the four-county health district to 4,761. By county, the cumulative totals are: 3,057 cases in Adams, 753 cases in Clay, 548 cases in Nuckolls, and 403 cases in Webster.
Bever also reported on overall positivity (number of positive tests divided by the number of tests conducted) in the health district for the week ending April 10, increased to 3.1% compared to 2.9% the week before. “If we look only at community testing, the positivity is 9.4%, up from 7.3% the previous week.”
Also on Monday, the Nebraska Public Health Lab confirmed the first variant (B.1.1.7) of COVID-19 virus in the South Heartland health district. So far, more than 180 cases of this variant have been found across the state.
Bever said this variant was first detected in the United Kingdom, and has been named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a “variant of concern” in the United States.
“Viruses can change due to mutations, which sets them apart from other variants of the original virus strain. Variants are classified as “variants of concern” if there is evidence that the virus is more easily transmissible person to person, causes more severe disease leading to increased hospitalizations or deaths, or there is reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines,” she said.
According to the CDC, the B.1.1.7 variant is able to spread more easily (approximately 50% increased transmissibility), it leads to increased illness severity, and some of the current treatments and vaccines are less effective with this variant.
“What this means for South Heartland District is that we cannot let down our guard. If you have any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please stay home from work, school and activities and get tested for COVID-19. We need to continue to avoid the three Cs: avoid crowded places, close contact, and confined spaces,” Bever said. “Wear a mask in public, keep distanced from others you do not live with, and get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is offered and appropriate for you,” she said.
“Prevention continues to be important to protect ourselves and others from severe COVID-19 illness caused by the original SARS-CoV-2 virus or its variants,” Bever said. “Help us ‘finish strong’ in South Heartland by practicing prevention and getting your COVID-19 vaccine.”