South Heartland District Health Department Reports Risk Dial Remains Elevated

HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported COVID-19 cases in the four-county district exceeded 4,000 on Tuesday, January 12, nearly ten months after the first local case was reported on March 18, 2020. On Wednesday night, the district’s cumulative total was 4,024.

South Heartland’s COVID-19 risk dial remained at 2.4, in the orange, or elevated, risk level. SHDHD executive director Michele Bever said the district’s weekly positivity dropped slightly to 14%, from 15% the previous week. However, the 14-day rolling average of new daily cases had edged up to 50 per 100,000 from the low 40s per 100,000 in previous weeks. Hospital capacity indicators also worsened slightly, including decreased ICU bed availability (36% compared to 73% the previous week), and an increase in COVID-19-positive inpatients from three on January 3 to eleven on January 13.

“Vaccine availability, while still limited in amount, continues to be an important positive factor,” Bever said. “SHDHD and partners in the health district have administered 1,831 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since the first doses arrived here in mid-December, including 243 second doses.”

Bever said the health district is wrapping up the first priority group this week and next, hoping to move to Phase 1B in the next week or two. “Next week, the majority of vaccine being allotted to us is coming as “second doses” and must be used as such,” Bever said.

Bever said the health department and local health care providers were experiencing huge call volumes from people wanting to know when they could get vaccine. She asked residents to please watch the local news media, health department website and SHDHD Facebook page for updated information about the status and timeline of the vaccine distribution process.

“We are putting out notifications to let people know whose turn it is and how to schedule your vaccine,” she said. “We encourage patience for those anxious to get the vaccine. Everyone in each phase can be vaccinated as soon as there are enough vaccines available,” she said.

SHDHD’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard tracks progress on COVID-19 vaccinations in the four-county district. Bever said other vaccine information and updates, along with links to the Nebraska COVID-19 Vaccination Plan and vaccine priority recommendations, are available on SHDHD’s COVID-19 vaccine webpage.

The levels of risk for COVID-19 spread are indicated on the risk dial as low (0-1.0, green), moderate (1.0-2.0, yellow), elevated (2.0-3.0, orange) and severe (3.0-4.0, red). The COVID Risk Dial & Community Guidance can be found on SHDHD webpages at www.southheartlandhealth.org. South Heartland District case counts and trends can be found on SHDHD’s dashboard of local COVID-19 case statistics. This dashboard, along with updates, guidance, news releases and other COVID-19 information and links can be found on the SHDHD website: www.southheartlandhealth.org. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides daily updates to Nebraska’s coronavirus COVID-19 cases on their Data Dashboard at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.

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