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Five new COVID-19 Deaths Confirmed by South Heartland Health

South Heartland Health reports 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths were from unvaccinated individuals...
South Heartland Health reports 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths were from unvaccinated individuals since Jan. 1, 2021.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 7:27 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported weekly cases in the four-county district are continuing to climb and five additional deaths had been attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total deaths to 104 since the pandemic began.

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the many individuals who have lost their lives due to COVID-19 over the course of this pandemic,” said executive director Michele Bever. “What is most devastating to the health department is that so many of these deaths were preventable, especially now that we have highly effective vaccines widely available to most age groups.”

Bever reported that since January 1, 2021, 80 percent of the confirmed COVID-19 deaths in South Heartland were in individuals who were not fully vaccinated. In addition, Nebraska data for a four-week period (September 12 – October 9) showed unvaccinated persons had three times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19, 12 times greater risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19 and 13.2 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated persons.

The local hospitals in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties are continuing to report an aggregate high census of COVID-19 patients, according to the South Heartland hospital dashboard. On Monday morning, there were 17 patients hospitalized with COVID, which was 46 percent of all inpatients and the availability of staffed ICU beds was down to 29 percent.

The health district logged 187 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending October 30, but also saw a 21-24 percent increase in the number of COVID tests conducted last week compared to each of the previous two weeks. SHDHD reported another 90 confirmed positive cases so far in the present week, bringing the cumulative total since the beginning of the pandemic to 6,851 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Bever said SHDHD’s local COVID-19 Advisory will continue to remain in effect for the four counties while community transmission levels remain high, as indicated by both the case rate and community positivity metrics. 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 449 cases per 100,000 people on November 15.

Overall positivity was 19.6 percent for the week ending November 13, which is high community transmission, in the red level. Community positivity (which excludes test results from regular surveillance testing in long-term care facilities) rose to 38 percent (red level: high transmission) and community transmission in the district’s four counties ranged from 33 percent to 42 percent.

The health department is encouraging vaccination for anyone five years and older, and boosters for those who are eligible. “Individuals who are unvaccinated are more likely to become ill with COVID-19 and need hospitalization or die from complications. Statewide, our health systems do not have the capacity to care for this many COVID patients and all of the other critical care needs. We worry that, added to this, we might see an influx of influenza patients needing care as the flu season unfolds,” Bever said.

“We are urging people to protect themselves and others, and to give the hospitals a needed break, by getting both their flu and their COVID-19 vaccines, which can be given at the same time,” she said. “Please take care and practice prevention over the holidays and plan for limited and COVID-19-safe gatherings.”

“With community transmission remaining high, we are continuing to promote ALL of the prevention layers to help curb community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” she said. “Prevention layers include staying home from school, work, and activities when you have symptoms, keeping a six-foot distance between you and others, wearing a mask, washing hands frequently and getting vaccinated. Vaccination is the most effective prevention layer we have. For the best protection, we encourage vaccination and using as many other prevention layers as you can,” she said.

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. For locations of COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccine, refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org.

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