HASTINGS – On Tuesday evening, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever provided COVID-19 updates for the four-county health district which serves Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.
Bever said the addition of another COVID-19-confirmed death brings the cumulative total to 96, for a 1.6% case fatality rate since the pandemic began. Deaths are not reported by the health department until confirmed by death certificate.
The health department logged 166 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases last week and already received 79 for the current week. The cumulative total since the beginning of the pandemic is 5,929 in the four-county district, with county totals of 3,789 in Adams, 920 in Clay, 632 in Nuckolls and 488 in Webster.
Bever reported last week’s case numbers were down by 28% compared to the previous week. She said while positivity dipped to 13.2 % and cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days has dropped to 329.6, these values still indicate high (red level) community transmission. Bever also reported the amount of COVID-19 testing dropped slightly (about 2%) last week, but the proportion of all testing that occurred in long-term care facilities increased considerably. Looking at the general community (excludes individuals who were tested due to working or residing in long-term care facilities), the positivity was 33.1% for South Heartland. By county, the general community positivity was 35.9% in Adams, 29.4% in Clay, 26.3% in Nuckolls and 30.0% in Webster. Positivity over 10% is considered high community transmission.
As of September 28, the hospital capacity dashboard showed a drop to 14.3% of staffed intensive care unit beds available and an increase to 35% of inpatients that are COVID-positive in South Heartland hospitals.
Vaccination coverage has improved slightly, with nearly 44% of South Heartland residents fully vaccinated and nearly 47% having received at least one dose. Of residents eligible for the vaccine (age 12 and older) 52% are fully vaccinated and 55.7% have received at least one dose. By age group, vaccination coverage for residents ages 65 and older is now at 85.1% fully vaccinated compared with 16% of residents ages 12-15, 22% of residents ages 16-19, and 36% percent of residents age 20-34, 49% of residents age 35-44, 49% of residents age 45-54, and 60% of residents age 55-64. By county, 41% of residents in Webster County are fully vaccinated while 44% of residents in Adams, Clay and Nuckolls Counties are fully vaccinated.
“We are happy for these small improvements in vaccine coverage each week,” Bever said. “Week by week, more of our residents are being protected from the severe illness that can result from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In fact, we know COVID-19 vaccinations are protecting Nebraskans because, since January 2021, ninety-four percent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and ninety-five percent of all COVID-19 deaths were among not fully vaccinated people.”
Bever said the health department and local health care providers are receiving questions from residents about eligibility for booster doses of vaccine. “As of now, only the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has been approved for booster doses at least 6 months after the Pfizer primary series. So, you must be fully vaccinated with Pfizer vaccine to get a Pfizer vaccine booster. If you were vaccinated with Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you will need to wait a little longer until the available data has been evaluated and additional recommendations are released,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pfizer booster doses are recommended for people 65 years and older, individuals 18 years and older in long-term care settings, and people aged 50-64 with certain underlying medical conditions to strengthen protection against severe disease. In addition, people aged 18-49 years old with certain underlying medical conditions and people aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for SARS-CoV-2 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional settings may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.
South Heartland is encouraging people to take advantage of the widely available, no-cost vaccine to start or complete their vaccination steps and protect against COVID-19. “It’s not too late to get your first and second shots,” Bever said.
SHDHD’s vaccine webpage (southheartlandhealth.org) includes a list of locations offering vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. The list is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted, and, if needed, how to make an appointment at each site. In addition, many health care providers in the district are offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients.
SHDHD is holding weekly walk-in COVID vaccination clinics with Pfizer vaccine on Wednesdays through the months of September and October, 5-7 pm, at the west end of the Allen’s building, 1115 W. 2nd Street in Hastings. Families are encouraged to bring their children age 12 and above (minor children must be accompanied by parent or guardian). Others are also welcome. Enter at Allen’s west door; masks are required. Participants may register in advance at vaccinate.ne.gov.
Bever encourages residents to contact their personal doctor or the health department if they have questions about the vaccine. Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.