HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported sixteen lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past four days (February 12 – February 15), averaging four new cases per day and bringing the cumulative number of cases in the four-county health district to 4,409. The new confirmed cases for the four-day period include: nine in Adams, two in Clay, five in Nuckolls and zero in Webster. By county, the new cumulative totals are: 2,866 cases in Adams, 719 cases in Clay, 488 cases in Nuckolls, and 336 cases in Webster.
Overall weekly positivity (number of positive tests divided by the number of tests conducted) for the health district decreased to 5.5% compared to 6.3% the week before. “Please note, when we subtract out the results from required testing in long term care facilities and we look only at the test results from the general population, the positivity is higher, at 13.2% for the health district,” Bever said. “We are very glad to see the positivity rate from testing in long term care facilities at 0.2%, which is very low. The large number of negative tests from long term care facility staff and residents pulls the overall positivity down, which is why we continue to post both of these metrics on our dashboard. The public can see both metrics for the district and for each county,” she said.
“The decreasing positivity is an important indicator that the steps we are taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are working in our communities. We can’t let up now – we are coming closer to low community spread and we need to get there and maintain this trend. We will 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. “We are monitoring the spread of the new variants of the virus that were detected first in other countries and are now in the U.S. The B.1.1.7. variant has spread to forty states, up from thirty-three last week. Another variant has been detected in eight states, up from four last week,” she said.
Bever said she is concerned about the SARS-CoV-2 variants because there is evidence that they are able to spread more quickly in people and they may not be as susceptible to the available treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies. “If these variants spread to Nebraska, they could increase the number of infections we see. The variants could decrease our ability to combat the infections with treatments developed specifically to fight illness caused by the current version of SARS-CoV-2,’ she said. “In addition, the vaccines we have now might not be as effective against the new variants. We need to keep virus spread very low so there is less chance the variants can spread to, or take hold in, our communities.”
Bever encouraged residents age 65+ to register for the COVID vaccine 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 there is help for people needing assistance with registration by contacting 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. “Registered individuals will be notified when it is their turn to schedule an appointment,” she said.