HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported 17 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past four days (February 26 – March 1), averaging 4.25 new cases per day and bringing the cumulative number of cases in the four-county health district to 4,478. The new confirmed cases for the four-day period were all Adams County residents. By county, the new cumulative totals are: 2,918 cases in Adams, 721 cases in Clay, 496 cases in Nuckolls, and 343 cases in Webster.
SHDHD executive director Michele Bever reported the 14-day rolling average of new daily cases was 10.4 per 100,000 (100K) on February 28, the lowest for the district since mid-September. “We are coming nearer our goal of fewer than 8 new cases per 100K per day,” she said.
Overall positivity (number of positive tests divided by the number of tests conducted) in the health district for the week ending February 27, increased to 4.6% compared to 3.9% the week before. Bever said COVID testing in the four-county district was very low, with fewer people tested last week than had been recorded since the first week of October 2020.
“There were only 659 tests conducted in the health district last week, with 65% of those tests occurring in long term care facilities where regular testing of staff is required. The good news is that there were zero positive tests reported in long term care staff last week or the week before,” she said. “Of the 228 tests of the general public, 13.2% of those were positive, which is still considered high community spread. We need to see less than 5% for us to consider community spread to be low,” Bever said.
“There needs to be more testing to detect cases of virus infection so that we can take action to reduce the spread. We encourage people to get tested if they have any COVID-19 symptoms,” she said.
Bever said it is too early to abandon the prevention measures that are working. “We need to continue to use all of the tools we have to stop the spread of this coronavirus until the risk is low and sustained at those levels,” she said. “We are very concerned about the new variants of the virus that were detected first in other countries and now in the U.S. The United Kingdom variant was just detected in Nebraska. These new and highly transmissible (easily spread) variant strains of the virus could lead to additional local surges of COVID cases in the coming months. We need to keep the virus from spreading so we don’t have local spikes in cases.”
Bever said vaccination is one way to reduce the severity of COVID illness caused by any of the virus strains. She urged anyone age 65+ who wants to get the COVID-19 vaccine to register for the vaccine.
“Our district is continuing to vaccinate individuals age 65+ along with some prioritized essential workers, which includes K-12 educators. If you are 65+, please register to get your vaccine using the state vaccine registration system, which may be accessed through SHDHD’s website homepage. While you wait for your turn to get the vaccine, please continue wearing your mask and practicing the 3Cs: avoid crowded spaces, avoid close contact and avoid confined spaces,” she said. “I’m glad to report that our health district will have more vaccine available this week, with a larger allotment of the Moderna vaccine expected, along with our first shipment of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.”