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South Heartland Health reports COVID-19 Transmission still high in the Region

South Heartland District Health Department reports rise in COVID-19 cases in it's four-county...
South Heartland District Health Department reports rise in COVID-19 cases in it's four-county region.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 8:04 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 remains high in the four-county health district. “Residents are preparing to gather with family and friends for upcoming holidays, they may be travelling, and they may be around people they haven’t see for quite some time,” said SHDHD executive director Michele Bever. “This is a recipe for additional spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is already at high (red level) transmission in our health district.”

Bever said the local hospitals in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties are continuing to report an aggregate high census of COVID patients. According to the South Heartland hospital dashboard, on Monday morning there were 19 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, which was 53 percent of all inpatients. “Overall, the availability of staffed ICU beds has continued to be low locally, which is adding to the increasingly heavy burden experienced by our rural and urban hospitals statewide,” Bever said.

The health district logged 193 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending November 20, but also saw a 31 percent increase in the number of COVID tests conducted last week compared to the previous week. Bever said the increase in tests conducted was due entirely to increased surveillance testing of staff and residents in long-term care facilities, which is required when there are positive cases confirmed at these licensed facilities.

SHDHD reported another 52 confirmed positive cases on Monday of the present week, bringing the cumulative total since the beginning of the pandemic over the 7,000 mark, to 7,006 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Bever confirmed that 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 458 cases/100K on November 22. Overall positivity was 15.8 percent for the week ending November 20, 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 40.2 (red level: high transmission) for the district and ranged from 20 percent to 46 percent in the four counties. More than 10 percent positivity is considered high.

“Due to the current high community transmission of the virus in our counties, the health department’s recommendations for COVID-safer fall and winter holiday activities are not very different from last year,” Bever said. “We are encouraging residents to follow the CDC’s safer ways for celebrating holidays. We are recommending:

  • Protection of those not yet eligible for vaccination such as very young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated.
  • Wearing well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated.
  • Note: Even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission, like the current situation in the South Heartland district.
  • Outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • Avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Getting tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Symptoms can be mild.
  • If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.
  • Getting your Influenza vaccine and your COVID-19 vaccine and booster.

“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,” Bever said. “The health department is encouraging COVID-19 vaccination for anyone 5 years and older, and boosters for all adults 18 and over when they are eligible,” she said.

“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. “Please take care and practice prevention over the holidays and plan for limited and COVID-19-safe gatherings.”

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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