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South Heartland Health updates risk dial

The department said low vaccination rates played a role in the needle staying in the yellow or...
The department said low vaccination rates played a role in the needle staying in the yellow or moderate zone.(ksnb)
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 7:34 AM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - On Tuesday evening, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever gave a weekly COVID-19 update for the health district, which encompasses Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.

Bever reported the department logged just two confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, averaging 0.29 cases per day and resulting in a new cumulative total of 4,919 confirmed cases since the first local case in March 2020. Both new cases were in Adams County. By county the cumulative totals are 3,179 in Adams County, 775 in Clay County, 548 in Nuckolls County and 417 in Webster County.

Bever also reported another COVID-19 case attributed to a SARS-CoV-2 variant, for a cumulative total of nineteen identified variant cases in South Heartland district. Sequencing analysis of a previously reported Adams County COVID-19 case has identified the variant as B.1.351, a variant first identified in South Africa and first detected in the United States in January 2021.

“The B.1.351 variant has approximately 50 percent higher transmissibility than the original, or wild-type version, meaning it spreads more easily from person to person,” Bever said. “It can cause more severe illness and this variant is less susceptible to some of the monoclonal antibody treatments, which means the treatments are less effective.”

“However, the vaccines are very effective in reducing severe illness, hospitalization and death caused by the original version and the variants. This is an important reason to get vaccinated and to continue to practice prevention, especially if you are around others who are unvaccinated or at higher risk of severe illness,” she said.

“The good news is the number of confirmed cases and the positivity continue to decrease,” Bever said. “The 14-day rolling average of daily new cases has remained below our goal of eight cases per 100,000 for 10 days in a row and as of May 29 the health district was averaging just 3.3 new cases per 100,000 per day.” Bever also reported hospital capacity was still very good, with 55 percent of intensive care unit beds available and only one patient hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Bever also stated that testing continued to drop, with only 256 tests overall last week. “Only 14 percent of the tests were general community members, i.e., not associated with long-term care staff or residents. The percent positive tests for general community was low at 1.7 percent. For residents and staff tested in long term care facilities, there were no positive tests for the week ending May 29,” she said.

With some metrics improving, the level of risk as summarized by SHDHD’s risk dial dropped again within the yellow, moderate zone to 1.5. “However, one of the factors in determining risk of coronavirus spread is the vaccination rate in our district,” Bever said. “The number of new vaccinations last week was low, so we haven’t moved the needle on that metric. We continue to remain at 40 percent of South Heartland residents having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. To reduce the risk of spread, the goal is to get to 70 percent or more of South Heartland residents having received at least one dose of vaccine.”

“We are encouraging anyone age 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and others. All three vaccine products – Pfizer BioNTech, J&J Janssen, and Moderna - are available in our health district.”

Bever said SHDHD’s vaccine webpage includes a list of locations offering vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. “This list is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted, and how to make an appointment at each site. In addition, there are several health care providers in the district who are offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients,” she said. Residents may contact the health department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595 for more information.

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