HASTINGS – March 18, marked the one-year anniversary of South Heartland District Health Department’s announcement of the first lab-confirmed COVID-positive South Heartland resident. One year later, a total of 4550 residents have tested positive for COVID and at least 68 have died due to COVID complications.
“It saddens me to see the impact this virus has had on our communities and the many lives that have been affected,” said SHDHD executive director Michele Bever. “This includes the lives of community members, but also the lives of health care professionals working in our hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities. It includes the lives of our public safety and emergency medical services personnel. It includes the lives of our public health and behavioral health professionals. It includes the lives of our educators and child care providers. It also includes the lives and livelihood of our business community, and many others,” she said.
“In the past year, we have weathered two large surges in COVID-19 cases – one in April-May 2020 and one in October-Dec 2020. On our one-year anniversary of the first identified case, we are currently experiencing lower numbers of cases, but not as low as we reached last summer. The virus is still spreading at moderate levels in our district and SARS-CoV-2 variants could create new surges,” Bever said. “A year ago, widespread travel by South Heartland residents, domestic and international, as well as gatherings small and large, contributed to the introduction and surge in COVID cases.”
Bever said what works to keep the virus spread lower is well-known by now, even if people are tired of hearing the words. “What works is avoiding the three Cs: avoid crowded places, avoid close contact, avoid confined spaces. We need to continue to wear masks that cover our noses and mouths, we need to stay home when we are sick, we need to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and objects, we need to wash our hands, and we need to get the COVID vaccine when it is our turn,” she said.
Bever said vaccine allotments have been coming steadily to the district, but still not fast enough to meet the demand. “We know the waiting has been frustrating for many residents. All of the vaccine provider partners in our health district have been diligently working through lists of individuals who registered for the vaccine, making calls to schedule people for their COVID shots and trying their best to follow Nebraska’s phased priorities. It is an enormous amount of work, and we are grateful for their commitment to getting shots in arms as fast as possible.”
SHDHD encourages everyone in the eligible age groups to register for a COVID vaccine by clicking on the red ribbon at the top of the SHDHD website home page at southheartlandhealth.org. Next, click on the picture of the vaccine to start your vaccine registration in the Nebraska vaccine registration and administration (VRAS) system. Those needing assistance with registration may contact the Nebraska State Vaccine hotline at 833-998-2275, or Midland Area Agency on Aging at 402-463-4565 Extension – 499.
“Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster county residents age 50-64 are now eligible for vaccine,” Bever said. “Residents who have registered for the COVID-19 vaccine, but who have not yet received a call or email for next steps, may contact their health care provider to schedule an appointment, or may contact the health department at 402-462-6211. We will help schedule you with an approved COVID-vaccine provider,” she said.
Bever also reported ten new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past three days (Tuesday – Thursday) for a new cumulative total of 4,550. Confirmed cases for the three-day period include: five in Adams, four in Clay, one in Nuckolls, and zero in Webster. By county, the cumulative case counts are: 2,957 cases in Adams, 745 cases in Clay, 501 cases in Nuckolls, and 347 cases in Webster.