South Heartland District Health Department Increases Risk Dial

HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever provided a weekly update to keep residents informed about COVID-19 in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.

The department logged a total of eight lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending July 24 and six new cases so far in the current week. The health district’s current cumulative total is 4,953 confirmed cases. Case counts by county are 3,200 in Adams County, 783 in Clay County, 551 in Nuckolls County and 419 in Webster County.

Bever also announced four previously-reported COVID-19 cases confirmed to be the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant of SARS-CoV-2, bringing the total number of identified Delta variant cases to six for the health district. A total of 26 variant cases have been identified in South Heartland district.

Bever reported the weekly positivity (percent positive tests) decreased from 5.9% to 5.1% overall due to increased number of tests from long term care facilities, with no positive results in those facilities. For the general population (outside of long-term care settings), the percent positive tests increased from 8% to 10% for the week ending July 24, with the number of tests conducted remaining approximately the same as the previous week (110 versus 113). The 14-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 increased to 2.7, compared to 2.1 the week before.

According to South Heartland’s hospital data dashboard, the area experienced an increase in percent of hospital beds used for COVID patients to 6%, up from 2.4% the prior week.

Bever noted there were no longer any TestNebraska sites in the health district collecting specimens for COVID-19 testing since Nebraska’s TestNebraska program is being discontinued. “This has the potential to decrease access to COVID-19 testing in our area, and testing is critical to identifying and slowing the spread of the virus,” Bever said. “There are still COVID-19 testing options. We encourage residents with symptoms to seek testing with their health care providers and to contact the health department if they need assistance finding testing options,” she said.

“With new clusters of positive cases, an increase in community positivity, and identification of additional cases caused by the Delta variant of concern, our overall local risk of COVID-19 has edged up a little higher in the moderate (yellow) zone,” Bever said.

“We continue to promote applying as many layers of prevention as we can, in as many places as we can. This includes hand washing, staying home from work, school and activities when we are sick, and all of the other disease prevention steps we can take to protect ourselves and others,” Bever said. “The most effective way to protect ourselves and others from severe illness is to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

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.

Bevers said SHDHD will hold a walk-in COVID vaccination clinic with Pfizer vaccine on Thursday, July 29, 5-7 pm at the west end of Allen’s on Second 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.

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