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South Heartland Health updates COVID-19 and Vaccination Numbers

South Heartland District Health Department reports hospital capacity is at 57 percent.
South Heartland District Health Department reports hospital capacity is at 57 percent.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 8:36 AM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - On Tuesday evening, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever provided COVID-19 updates for the four-county health district which serves Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.

The health district logged 84 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases last week (the week ending October 16) and received another 57 so far in the present week. The cumulative total since the beginning of the pandemic is 6,272 in the four-county district, with county totals of 4,091 in Adams, 973 in Clay, 685 in Nuckolls and 523 in Webster. More sequencing results of previously reported cases were confirmed to be the Delta variant lineage. Since the first Delta variant was identified in South Heartland district in mid-July, all subsequent sequencing results, a total of 51 cases, have been identified as Delta variant cases.

The rate of new cases (confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days) has remained in the high (red) level of community transmission. For the four-county district, the 7-day rate was 219 cases per 100,000 people on October 19. According to South Heartland’s COVID dashboard, overall positivity dropped below eight percent this week to 7.4 percent which is moderate community transmission, in the yellow level. However, community positivity (which excludes test results from regular surveillance testing in long-term care facilities) rose to 24.6 percent (red level: high transmission) and community transmission in the district’s four counties ranged from 21 percent to 53 percent.

“SHDHD’s local COVID-19 Advisory will remain in effect for our counties while community transmission levels remain high, as indicated by both the case rate and community positivity metrics,” Bever said.

According to SHDHD’s Hospital Data dashboard, South Heartland hospitals reported there were seven COVID inpatients (21.2 percent of all inpatients) with one COVID patient requiring a ventilator as of October 19. In addition, 57.1 percent of staffed intensive care unit beds were available in South Heartland hospitals.

Bever said fall and winter are known as cold and flu season – a time when we see an increase RSV, the common cold, influenza and other respiratory illnesses. “Our fall and winter holidays bring people together, which aids in the spread of these viruses,” Bever said. “Using prevention to reduce the impact of these respiratory viruses is even more important this year, especially considering that we already have a high level of COVID-19 circulating in our communities,” she said.

“Getting a flu shot (for seasonal influenza) and a COVID-19 vaccine (for SARS-CoV-2) will reduce the severity of these illnesses and are the best prevention steps we can take,” Bever said. “Other important steps to reduce spread of any respiratory viral illness are to stay home when you have symptoms, keep your distance from others (six feet is a good standard) and avoid crowded places and confined indoor spaces,” she said.

Other prevention practices are washing hands often with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding touching your nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Bever said wearing a mask in public is another recommended prevention practice for individuals over the age of two. “All of these practices help to reduce spread of respiratory viruses. We encourage using as many prevention practices as you can to help keep yourself, your family, your friends and your colleagues healthier during the flu, cold and COVID season,” Bever said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an influenza (flu) shot and a COVID-19 vaccine, including COVID-19 booster shot, can be given at the same time. “These vaccines are very safe and highly effective in reducing risk of severe illness that can lead to hospitalization and death,” Bever said. “October is a good time to get your flu shot and it’s not too late to get your first and second COVID-19 shots,” she said.

South Heartland’s vaccine webpage, southheartlandhealth.org, provides a list of locations offering COVID-19 vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. The list of vaccine providers is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted and, if needed, how to make an appointment at each site. Bever said many health care providers in the district are also offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients and that residents should consider getting their COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same visit.

SHDHD is holding weekly walk-in COVID vaccination clinics with Pfizer vaccine on Wednesdays through the month of October, 5-7 pm, at the west end of the Allen’s building, 1115 W. 2nd 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 COVID-19 vaccine, additional doses for immunocompromised individuals, booster doses, or COVID-19 testing. Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.

Bever said people looking for COVID-19 testing may refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org, to find a list of testing sites, types of tests offered, and hours when testing is available.

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