Weekly Cases Double; Health Department Encourages Layered Prevention

HASTINGS – On Tuesday evening, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever provided a weekly update to keep residents informed about COVID-19 in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.

The department marked a total of 32 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending August 7, doubling the number from the prior week, and four times higher than the week before that. For the current week, ten new cases have been reported as of Tuesday evening. Today, the health district’s cases surpassed the 5,000 mark, with a new cumulative total of 5,005 confirmed cases.

Bever reported the 7-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 was 8.8 on August 9, up from 6.3 cases per 100K the previous week. The overall weekly positivity (percent positive tests) increased from 6.8% to 7.7% (moderate transmission). For the general population by itself (outside of long-term care settings), the percent positive tests increased from 12.6% to 13.4% (high transmission) for the week ending August 7, while percent positive tests in long-term care facilities remained at zero for the 11th week in a row.

Hospital capacity is tracked using the percent of inpatients that are COVID positive and the fraction of staffed intensive care unit beds that are available. As of August 10th, 7.3% of hospital inpatients were COVID-19 positive and the available staffed ICU beds was 36.4%.

To date, 39% of South Heartland residents are fully vaccinated and 44% have received at least one dose. As K-12 students head back to school, 17% of children age 16-19 are fully vaccinated and another 4% have received their first dose. In the 12-15 age group, only 10% of children are fully vaccinated and another 6% have received their first dose.

Bever said South Heartland is committed to working with area schools to keep students, faculty and staff safe from COVID-19. “We share the goal of assuring schools stay safe and open with students attending in person. We also recognize and value the unique nature of schools’ role in the economic and mental wellbeing of children and adults in our communities,” she said.

“With the Delta variant present in our district and the current trend of cases doubling each week, we are preparing for a new surge in cases. We are also concerned that children may be hit harder with this variant, based on national trends reported on August 5 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association and the fact that vaccine for children under 12 is not yet approved,” Bever said.

“For schools and for community settings, we will continue to promote and encourage layered prevention practices that are evidence-based, such as frequent handwashing, use of alcohol-based sanitizer, social distancing, cohorting (keeping in the same group), staying home when sick, cleaning high-touch surfaces, and the use of facial coverings (masks),” Bever said. “The more layers of prevention we are able to use, the better our barrier against the spread of COVID-19.”

“The vaccines are our best defense against COVID-19,” Bever said. “Used together with other layers of prevention in our schools and in community settings, we can help keep our counties from seeing the high surges of severe illness that are overwhelming hospitals in states like Florida, Mississippi and Missouri. Please get your COVID-19 vaccine so you are fully vaccinated – which will protect you and help protect others from severe illness and the need for hospitalization.”

SHDHD’s vaccine webpage (southheartlandhealth.org) includes a list of locations offering vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. The list is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted, and, if needed, how to make an appointment at each site. In addition, many health care providers in the district are offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients.

SHDHD is holding weekly walk-in COVID vaccination clinics with Pfizer vaccine on Wednesdays through the month of August, 5-7 pm at the west end of Allen’s on Second Street in Hastings. Families are encouraged to bring their children age 12 and above (minor children must be accompanied by parent or guardian). Others are also welcome. Enter at Allen’s west door; masks are required. Participants may register in advance at vaccinate.ne.gov.

Bever encourages residents to contact their personal doctor or the health department if they have questions about the vaccine.  Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.

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