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Buffalo County leads Central Nebraska in recent COVID-19 cases.

A few Nebraska counties hold the majority of recent cases
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 5:14 PM CDT
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(KSNB) - You may be familiar with our COVID-19 case count map on the sidebar of our main page, displaying the latest information of the case totals for each county in Nebraska. Since our first cases in early March, we have ballooned to over 27,000 cases through the Spring and Summer. However, just looking at the total each day does a disservice to the understanding of the current situation.

To use the numbers from the last two weeks accomplishes two things: it shows recent numbers to know how widespread the disease is now, and it shows an approximation of “active” cases, since the general period of illness remains under two weeks’ time, erring on the high end. This is what is shown below.

A representation of the recent numbers seen in Nebraska.
A representation of the recent numbers seen in Nebraska.(Kit Cloninger)

Now, there are some things to consider with this. Note that while Hall County has seen over 1,700 cases since the beginning of the outbreak, they have only had 75 in the last two weeks. Douglas County has had over 10,000 total, with 1,804 in the last two weeks. Douglas, Sarpy, and Lancaster counties all have the highest two-week total, and together account for 73.3% of the recent cases. The total of 4,011 cases in the last 14 days accounts for 14.6% of the total cases. The recent trend has been that the ratio of recent to total cases has been increasing.

Here around the Tri-Cities, we have seen a new trend arising. While Hall County was leading Adams and Buffalo counties in the early part of the outbreak, Buffalo County has now outpaced Hall. Per capita, Hall County has ~122 cases per 100,000 residents, while Buffalo County has ~247 per 100,000 residents. This implies a greater spread within the community, while accounting for population differences. For further context, Douglas County has a per capita count of ~315 per 100,000 residents, greater than Hall/Buffalo, along with the greater population.

Now for a broader view, let us consider the three health departments which cover the Tri-Cities: Central District (Hall, Hamilton, Merrick), South Heartland (Adams Clay, Nuckolls, Webster), and Two Rivers (Buffalo, Dawson, Franklin, Harlan, Kearney, Phelps). These three districts have seen a similar lull period through June and Early July (see graph below). However, the Two Rivers district has seen a sharp increase of cases since the last week of July. South Heartland and Central District have not been as dramatic, however they still remain above the state average.

A perspective of the recent sharp increase of case counts in the Two Rivers Public Health Department area.
A perspective of the recent sharp increase of case counts in the Two Rivers Public Health Department area.(Kit Cloninger)

This region only accounts for 9.1% of the state’s recent case count, but the trend is that the cases are increasing.

Two Rivers Public Health Department have recently increased their Risk Dial to the “Elevated,” level 3 category (of 4) to reflect this rapid increase in cases. In addition to this, other factors are also concerning such as an increasing positivity rate, or the proportion of positive cases to tests administered. Simply put, a higher positivity rate is a worse situation.

There is a lot of information to pull from all of the data that is out there. It is important to understand where we are with respect to where we’ve been, and to also monitor where we have been trending in recent times to know where we are heading. Cases are increasing, and the importance of taking precautionary measures remains forefront. Wearing a mask in public, limiting large gatherings, and maintaining distance between others in case of a stray sneeze can help slow the spread.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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