COVID-19 cases on the rise, health departments warn of deadly next few months

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 8:40 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Central District Health Department and South Heartland Health Department have both seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases lately. Now the two department directors say they expect another surge is right around the corner.

“We are in for a rough fall," Teresa Anderson with the Central District Health Department said in a Tuesday morning community briefing. "We are going to see our positive numbers go up week by week. Generally we are going to see these cases in a younger population. By the middle of October we’ll start to see hospitalizations go up and death rates go up. That is due in large part to the spread from the younger population to the older population.”

Michele Bever, Director of the South Heartland Health Department, said her district is seeing that increase as well.

“We see from our data too that it’s been ticking up a little bit more quickly in the last few weeks," Bever said. "We’ve seen the number of cases each week larger than the previous week for quite a few weeks now.”

Both directors work closely with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which studies data from across the country to help predict the trends that will happen.

“We are looking at what’s happened in other states and watching those trends in several states ahead of us and then compared Nebraska," Bever said. "We’re a little bit behind in terms of when reopening occurred, the data is showing first there is an increase in cases and as that kind of catches up we have more of the older age groups.”

The two departments brought in roughly 50 new cases each last week alone. That’s an increase for both from the week before. The average is lower now than it was when the area was first hit earlier this year, but higher than the summer months when it started to slow down.

“It was under control, and we had flattened the curve because everyone was staying at home and practicing all the social distancing pieces," Bever said. "People think ‘well why do we need to do this any more because we’re managing it?’ Well the governor even said on Monday that we’re managing the virus at this point. It’s not gone, but we’re managing it.”

The directors said they understand some people may be tired of hearing about COVID-19 or having to follow the precautions, but that this is not the time to let up on it.

“I think all of us will admit we’re getting a little COVID weary," Anderson said. "We don’t want to worry about COVID anymore, but when we get complacent about COVID the virus takes advantage of the situation. This is not the time to relax the measure that we’re taking in our fight against COVID.”

The directors said we can help get the virus under control again if everyone works together. That means wearing a mask or face shield, keeping your distance from others and washing hands often.

Anderson also said she was concerned about the changes in the directed health measures that came out this past weekend. The new rule says if a child is exposed outside of school, they can return to class with a mask on.

“We are concerned that this change in the directed health measure will result in an increased number of our youth being at risk," she said. "It will also hasten the spread of the virus in our communities. We have cautioned our schools on this. Some schools are going to stick with their existing policies, others are going to advance to the new directed health measure.”

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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