HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported 16 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past four days (March 12 – March 15), averaging 4 new cases per day and bringing the cumulative number of cases in the four-county health district to 4,540. Last week the department reported an average of three new cases per day for the equivalent four-day period. The new confirmed cases for the four-day period were eight in Adams County, six in Clay County, and two in Nuckolls County. By county, the new cumulative totals are: 2,952 cases in Adams, 741 cases in Clay, 500 cases in Nuckolls, and 347 cases in Webster.
SHDHD executive director Michele Bever reported the 14-day rolling average of new daily cases increased to 10.4 per 100,000 (100K) on March 14, from 9.5 per 100K reported the previous Monday. “The rolling average of new cases has been fairly steady over the past couple of weeks, remaining under 11 per 100K, but not dropping below 9 per 100K,” Bever said. South Heartland’s goal is to reach and maintain fewer than 8 new cases per 100K per day.
Overall positivity (number of positive tests divided by the number of tests conducted) in the health district for the week ending March 13, jumped to 5.9% compared to 2.4% the week before. Bever said sixty percent of the last week’s COVID tests were conducted in long-term care facilities. “We have continuing good news in our long-term care facilities, where staff and resident testing logged zero percent positivity for the fourth week in a row,” she said. “The other forty percent of tests were general community members, with a positivity of 15.7%, a huge jump above the 5% target for low spread in the community and more than double the positivity reported for the previous week.”
“This uptick in positive tests is concerning,” Bever said. “We do not want to see a trend in the wrong direction after our communities have worked so hard to get us to this point. Please continue to discourage the virus from spreading by using all of the prevention tools we have available to us. Please help our communities reach and sustain low levels of community spread,” she said.
On March 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance for organizing large events and gatherings. CDC’s key points include: avoiding large events and gatherings, when possible; considering the level of risk when deciding to host an event; promoting healthy behaviors and maintaining healthy environments to reduce risk when large events and gatherings are held; and being prepared if someone gets sick during or after the event.
“The CDC continues to recommend that people avoid large gatherings and crowded places, especially those where physical distancing cannot be maintained between people who live in different households,” Bever said. “These situations are opportunities for the virus to spread more easily from person to person.”
In addition to hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing masks for preventing spread, Bever said vaccination is an important tool to reduce the severity of COVID illness caused by any of the virus strains. To date, the department and vaccination partners have administered nearly 12,000 doses of vaccine in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster Counties.
“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,” she said.
Bever said South Heartland COVID-19 vaccine providers also are vaccinating prioritized essential workers, including staff in higher education, licensed child care, grocery businesses, food processing facilities, and co-ops.