HASTINGS – On Tuesday evening, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever gave a COVID-19 update for the health district, which encompasses Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties. Beginning this week, SHDHD is reducing the number of regular COVID-19 updates to once each week.
Bever reported the department logged just 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past ten days, averaging two cases per day. The cases included 18 in Adams County and two in Clay County for a new cumulative district total of 4,917. By county the cumulative totals are 3,177 in Adams County, 775 in Clay County, 548 in Nuckolls County and 417 in Webster County.
Bever also reported that sequencing analysis had identified a cumulative total of eighteen COVID-19 cases caused by variants, all B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. These cases include 13 in Adams, one in Clay, one in Nuckolls and three in Webster. “The B.1.1.7 variant has higher transmissibility, meaning it spreads more easily from person to person, and it can cause more severe illness,” Bever said. “This is one reason to continue to practice prevention, especially if you are around others who are unvaccinated or at higher risk of severe illness.”
“However, we have good news to share regarding new COVID-19 cases in our district,” Bever said. “Our 14-day rolling average of daily new cases has dipped below our goal of 8 cases per 100,000 for 5 days in a row and currently stands at 5.1 new cases per 100,000 per day. In addition, hospital capacity is excellent, with 64% of intensive care unit beds available and zero patients hospitalized due to COVID-19,” she said.
Bever also stated that in the past two weeks testing was the lowest it had been since late September, 2020. “With that it mind, our overall positivity, which is the number of positive tests out of all the tests conducted last week, was moderate at 5.5%, which factors in the moderate positivity of 8.2% for the general community and the low positivity of 4.2% for residents and staff in long term care facilities,” she said.
With some metrics improving, the level of risk as summarized by SHDHD’s risk dial has dropped within the yellow, moderate zone to 1.6. “One of the factors in determining risk of coronavirus spread is the vaccination rate in our district,” Bever said. “To reduce the risk of spread, the goal is for 70% or more of South Heartland residents to have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. We are at 40% and continuing to inch upward.”
“The COVID-19 vaccines are effective in protecting against severe illness, hospitalization and death caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus and its variants,” Bever said. “We are encouraging anyone age 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and others. All three vaccine products – Pfizer BioNTech, J&J Janssen, and Moderna – are available in our health district.”
Bever said SHDHD’s vaccine webpage (https://southheartlandhealth.org/public-health-data/covid-19-vaccine-information.html) includes a list of locations offering vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. “This list is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted, and how to make an appointment at each site. In addition, there are several health care providers in the district who are offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients,” she said. Residents may contact the health department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595 for more information.