HASTINGS – On Wednesday evening, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever announced that general population residents age 50 to 64 would now be eligible to receive the COVID vaccine. “We are asking vaccine providers to take a reverse age approach beginning with those age 60 and older, who are most at risk of severe illness,” she said.
At the same time, there will be continued focus on completing first shots for Phase 1 priorities, which will extend for another few weeks. Bever said SHDHD had wrapped up the push to vaccinate educators and child care providers and is currently working on vaccinating essential staff from grocery stores, food processing plants, co-ops, and the transportation sector. “Once these Phase 1B priority groups have had the opportunity for vaccine, we will move to Phase 1C, which includes residents at homeless shelters, residential/congregate living facilities and correctional facilities.”
Bever encouraged everyone in the eligible age groups to register for a COVID vaccine by clicking on the red ribbon at the top of the SHDHD website home page at southheartlandhealth.org. Next, click on the picture of the vaccine to start your vaccine registration in the Nebraska vaccine registration and administration (VRAS) system.
“Anyone who has registered for the COVID-19 vaccine, but who has not yet received a call or email for next steps, may contact their health care provider to schedule an appointment, or may contact the health department at 402-462-6211. We will help schedule you with an approved COVID-vaccine provider,” she said.
Bever also said Bert’s Pharmacy and Walmart in Hastings were participating in a Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and receiving their own separate allotments of COVID-19 vaccine. “The pharmacies in this program are required by Nebraska’s directed health measures to follow the state and local vaccine priorities. We are glad to have these additional options for South Heartland residents to receive a COVID vaccine,” she said.
Bever reported the health department and vaccine provider partners had administered more than 12,300 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the health district to date. “This includes 7,870 primary doses, 4,167 booster doses and 306 single dose vaccines,” Bever said. According to SHDHD, these totals do not include the doses provided to long term care facilities through the federal pharmacy program or the doses administered by retail pharmacies through a separate federal pharmacy program.
Bever also reported the COVID-19 risk dial score rose to 1.8 in moderate risk, up from 1.6 the previous week. “The average number of positive tests reported each day increased to 6.4 per day, up from 3 per day the previous week,” Bever said. “The overall weekly positivity also jumped, from 2.4% to 5.9%,” she said. According to South Heartland’s dashboard on March 17, only 3% of inpatients were COVID-positive in South Heartland hospitals and 64% of ICU beds were available for patients.
“We need to continue doing what works,” Bever said. “What works is avoiding 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.