SHDHD and local agencies urge safety precautions under “severe” COVID spread

Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 6:58 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The South Heartland District Health Department announced the district is now in the severe category for COVID spread. The capacity of hospitals, testing, and other factors play a role in the designation.

While there are no changes being enforced by the health department’s assessment, there are strong recommendations to help the area hospitals from getting overwhelmed. Some area agencies are working to get more people to follow the safety precautions.

The test positivity rate is lowered since long-term care facilities have to test their staff and residents more frequently. Without factoring in long-term care facility testing, the test positive rate for the district is at 29 percent. Since there are so many new cases a day it is slowing down the contact tracing process.

“With the higher volume of cases that is definitely getting longer and we are, and have been for a while, utilizing the state contact tracers as well and they across the state are having demand from health departments,” Executive Director Michele Bever said.

At Mary Lanning they reported on Thursday having 18 COVID patients, seven are in critical care with five on ventilators. Many of the critical access hospitals in rural areas have taken on the non-critical patients to ease the load.

Bever said the health department is finding a lot of the new cases are coming from small gatherings.

“We’re seeing it across the board but I think it is often in our smaller more informal gatherings where people think we know these people and think it’s safe to get together with them,” Bever said. “When we’re with people and we’re not socially distancing and we’re not wearing masks that’s where we’re seeing spread.”

The risk dial category will not mean any changes for Hastings Public Schools or Hastings College at this time. The Hastings City Council will be discussing the situation at the Monday meeting but there are no talks of a mask mandate or additional closures.

“Often people look to that to say it would be easier for us if there would be a mask mandate but I think that’s something for our government officials to work through and for individual organizations. It is working very well for some of our businesses,” Bever said.

South Heartland encourages the public to take the virus seriously and stay home when they can.

“I would like to see folks take this seriously and have some personal accountability for our communities that this is each of our responsibilities,” Bever said.

Under the severe category the health department suggests not leaving home unless it is essential and wearing a mask anytime someone leaves the house and is around people.

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