South Heartland District Health Department Administers Vaccines to EMS Personnel; Risk Dial Drops Down to Orange

HASTINGS – Yesterday South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) administered Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to five emergency medical services (EMS) personnel from Hastings Fire and Rescue.

SHDHD Executive Director Michele Bever said that health care workers with direct patient contact are prioritized to receive the first doses of the vaccine. “This is an exciting day to be able to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to our EMS personnel because their work with patients puts them at higher risk for exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Bever said. “This is the beginning of a new phase in our response to COVID-19.”

Bever said the health department received fifteen doses of vaccine this week and would be administering all of them to EMS personnel. “Next week we are expecting a much larger shipment of vaccine,” she said. “We will continue vaccinating EMS personnel that need it and will work our way down the priority list according to Nebraska’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.”

Bever said the planning team is requesting hospitals, primary care clinics, other health care practices, and EMS to identify how many of their staff are providing direct patient care and the percent of those who are wanting to get the vaccine as soon as it is available. “This helps us plan how to best utilize the shipments of vaccine. The goal is to get people vaccinated who need it and want it most, based on the priorities,” she said.

After health care workers, the next groups to get the vaccine will be critical infrastructure, including utilities, education sector, food and agricultural, transportation, and non-EMS first responders, according to Nebraska’s plan.

Bever also reported South Heartland’s COVID-19 risk dial is dropping from red zone (severe risk) into the orange or elevated risk level. Bever said the drop to 2.8 from 3.2 the previous week is due to several factors, including a 33% net decrease in cases compared to the previous week, a decrease in positivity, a shorter lab testing turnaround time, a decrease in COVID patients in area hospitals, and the first COVID-19 vaccine doses now available to begin vaccination.

“With vaccine coming to our district, we now have another tool to help us prevent illness and reduce spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” Bever said. “We need to use all of these tools to have the most effective defense against the spread of the virus in our communities. And, while we still have a long way to go to get past this pandemic, we are definitely on the right track!”

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/Coronavirus.

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