HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported 12 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past four days (February 5 – March 8), averaging 3 new cases per day and bringing the cumulative number of cases in the four-county health district to 4,501. The new confirmed cases for the four-day period were five in Adams County, five in Clay County, and two in Webster County. By county, the new cumulative totals are: 2,929 cases in Adams, 729 cases in Clay, 497 cases in Nuckolls, and 346 cases in Webster.
SHDHD executive director Michele Bever reported the 14-day rolling average of new daily cases was 9.5 per 100,000 (100K) on March 7, decreased from 10.9 per 100K the previous Monday. “Our goal is to reach and maintain fewer than 8 new cases per 100K per day,” she said.
Overall positivity (number of positive tests divided by the number of tests conducted) in the health district for the week ending March 6, decreased to 2.4% compared to 4.6% the week before. Bever said sixty-five percent of the last week’s COVID tests were conducted in long-term care facilities. “We have good news that the staff and resident testing logged zero percent positivity for the third week in a row,” she said. “The other thirty-five percent of tests were general community members, which resulted in 7% positivity, still above our 5% target for low spread in the community, but the lowest we’ve seen since we started separately tracking community positivity versus long-term care positivity in late October.”
Bever said it is too early to abandon the prevention measures that are working. “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 remain very concerned about the new variants of the virus that have been detected in Nebraska. 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. We need to keep the virus from spreading so we don’t have local spikes in cases.”
Bever said vaccination is one way to reduce the severity of COVID illness caused by any of the virus strains. To date, the department and vaccination partners have administered over 10,300 doses of vaccine in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster Counties. “Our reports show that 63% of residents age 65+ have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine,” Bever said. “Anyone age 65+ who wants to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but who has not yet received a call to schedule an appointment, should contact the health department at 402-462-6211. We will help schedule you with an approved COVID-vaccine provider.”
“In addition to individuals age 65+, our health district is vaccinating prioritized essential workers. This week, we hope to vaccinate the remainder of the K-12 educators who are wanting the vaccine. Next week, we change the vaccine focus to essential staff in higher education and licensed child care providers,” Bever said.
“We encourage everyone, while you wait for your turn to get the vaccine, to please continue wearing your mask and practicing the 3Cs: avoid crowded spaces, avoid close contact and avoid confined spaces,” she said.