South Heartland District Health Department Reports 3 New Coronavirus Related Deaths; Positivity Rate Drops

HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported three additional COVID-19-related deaths of previously reported cases, bringing the health district total to fifty-five (55). SHDHD Executive Director Michele Bever stated the deaths were Clay County residents, including a woman in her 90s, a woman in her 60s, and a woman in her 50s.

“We extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of these South Heartland residents who lost their lives to COVID-19,” Bever said. SHDHD does not report deaths attributed to COVID-19 until confirmed by death certificate.

Bever also reported 24 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past four days (February 5 – February 8), averaging 6 new cases per day and bringing the cumulative number of cases in the four-county health district to 4,362. The new confirmed cases for the four-day period include: nine in Adams, six in Clay, eight in Nuckolls and one in Webster. By county, the new cumulative totals are: 2,838 cases in Adams, 712 cases in Clay, 477 cases in Nuckolls, and 335 cases in Webster.

Overall weekly positivity (number of positive tests divided by the number of tests conducted) for the health district decreased to 6.3% compared to 10.2% the week before. “However, I should point out that if we subtract out the results from required testing in long term care facilities, and look only at the test results from the general population, the positivity is higher, at 15.5% for the health district,” Bever said. “We are still posting both of these metrics on our dashboard, for the district and for each county,” she said.

“The decreasing positivity is an important trend in the right direction. However, we need to continue to use all of the tools we have to stop the spread of this coronavirus until the risk is low,” Bever said. “I am concerned about the new variants of the virus that were detected first in other countries and now in the U.S.  These variants could increase the number of infections we see if, or when, they spread to south central Nebraska.”

Bever encouraged residents to sign up for the vaccine. Individuals age 65+ may register on the state vaccine registration system, called VRAS. The sign-up tool can be accessed through SHDHD’s website, www.southheartlandhealth.org. “Just click on the red ribbon at the top of the homepage to get to the vaccine information page, then click on the picture of the vaccine to start the registration process.” Bever said registered individuals will be notified when it is their turn to schedule an appointment. Prioritized essential workers can expect to be notified through their worksites when vaccine is available for them.

Individuals needing assistance with registration, are encouraged to ask a family member or friend for help or may contact the NE State Vaccine hotline at 833-998-2275 to register. Individuals 60 and over may contact Midland Area Agency on Aging for assistance with vaccine registration at 402-463-4565 Extension – 499.

“While you wait for your turn to get the vaccine, please continue practicing the 3Cs: avoid crowded spaces, avoid close contact and avoid confined spaces,” she said.

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