South Heartland District Health Department Reports 3 COVID Related Deaths; Positivity Rate Down to 3.9 Percent

HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department officials reported three additional COVID-19-related deaths of previously reported cases, bringing the health district total to fifty-eight (58). SHDHD Executive Director Michele Bever stated the deaths were Adams County residents, including a man in his 80s, a woman in her 70s, and a woman in her 80s. SHDHD does not report deaths attributed to COVID-19 until confirmed by death certificate. 

“We are saddened to report the loss of three more Adams County residents to COVID-19. We extend our sincere condolences to their families and friends,” Bever said.  

Bever also reported 17 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past four days (February 19 – February 22), averaging 4.25 new cases per day and bringing the cumulative number of cases in the four-county health district to 4,439. The new confirmed cases for the four-day period include: ten in Adams, one in Clay, two in Nuckolls and four in Webster. By county, the new cumulative totals are: 2,888 cases in Adams, 720 cases in Clay, 490 cases in Nuckolls, and 341 cases in Webster.  

Overall weekly positivity (number of positive tests divided by the number of tests conducted) for the health district decreased to 3.9% compared to 5.5% the week before. “I’d like to point out that when we look at positivity of testing by the general public, that means minus the long-term care facility testing, the weekly positivity was 11.2%, down from 13.2% the week before.” Bever said. “This is good news! Our positivity hasn’t been this low since the end of July. However, the testing is way down, too, with only 664 tests last week compared to over 1,000 weekly tests four weeks ago. Testing is still very important to reduce the spread of the virus. We need to aim for low positivity, with high levels of testing,” she said. 

Bever repeated that the good news does not mean prevention actions should be abandoned. “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.  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, as is happening in some other states. These variant strains may not be as susceptible to the available treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, and the vaccines we have now might not be as effective against the new variants,” she said. 

Bever said South Heartland was pleased to report that last week’s vaccine shipments finally arrived today, after being delayed by weather last week. “The whole state was set back on vaccinations due to the winter weather event that disrupted shipments all over the country. We got the vaccine out to our vaccination partners today and appointments are being rescheduled throughout the district. In addition, we are expecting this week’s allotment of vaccine to arrive later in the week,” she said. 

“We are continuing to vaccinate individuals age 65+, with a reverse age approach. 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. 

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