HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever reported the COVID-19 risk dial score dropped within the ‘orange zone’ to 2.1, from 2.2 the previous week, inching closer to the “moderate risk” or yellow zone.
“We have been seeing fewer new daily positive tests – averaging 10 per day this past week,” Bever said. “Our 14-day average of new daily cases decreased to 26 per 100,000 for the week ending February 6,” she said. As of Wednesday, this average had dropped further to 24 per 100,000. Bever said the goal is to drop below 8 per 100,000, which equates to an average of 4 new cases per day based on South Heartland’s population.
With fewer cases, Bever said contact tracing effectiveness increased, with staff able to trace 80% of contacts within 24 hours. Bever said contact tracing and quarantine continue to be important tools for reducing spread of the virus.
According to SHDHD’s hospital capacity dashboard on February 10, eighty-two percent of ICU beds were available, nineteen percent of inpatients were COVID-positive, and there were eight COVID-19-positive inpatients, none needing ventilation.
“All of these steps we are taking, all the tools we are using to block the spread of the coronavirus, are working to protect the health care system and to protect our most vulnerable,” Bever said. “We need to continue doing what’s working. We need to avoid the three Cs: avoid crowded places, avoid close contact, avoid confined spaces. We need to continue to wear masks that cover our noses and mouths, we need to stay home when we are sick, we need to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and objects, we need to wash our hands, and we need to get the COVID vaccine when it is our turn,” she said.
“All of these steps are even more important with the threat of new variants of the virus,” Bever said. “These variants were detected first in other countries and have spread to the United States. I am concerned that we may experience increases in the number of infections in our district as a result of variants spreading to south central Nebraska.”
“So, please continue prevention steps and please plan to get the vaccine when it is your turn,” Bever said. The health department is asking for patience while waiting for the vaccine. “Due to limited amounts of vaccine coming to us each week, it will take many months for everyone who wants the vaccine to get it,” Bever said.
Residents can register to get the vaccine on the SHDHD website (www.southheartlandhealth.org) where there is a link to Nebraska’s vaccine registration system. Individuals will be notified when it is their turn to schedule an appointment. “If you are in the current priority group of age 65+, it may still be many weeks before it is your turn. We are getting the vaccine into arms as fast as it comes in – within one week of its arrival,” she said.