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South Heartland Health reports six new deaths from COVID-19

South Heartland District Health Department reports community virus transmission remains high.
South Heartland District Health Department reports community virus transmission remains high.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 6:56 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 six additional deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total (cumulative) deaths to 110 and the overall case fatality rate to 1.5 percent.

“We are saddened to report additional deaths from COVID-19,” said executive director Michele Bever. “Our case fatality rate remains significantly higher than Nebraska’s overall rate of 0.85 percent. Reports of more deaths, along with worsening case counts and hospitalizations trending in the wrong direction, should be a wake-up call that the COVID pandemic is not over in south central Nebraska,” she said.

Bever said local hospitals in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties are still reporting a high COVID census. “The aggregate census of COVID-19 patients was 17 this morning and has ranged from 14 to 19 patients for more than two weeks. Over the last month, we have been seeing a steady upward trend in the percent of COVID-positive inpatients, peaking at 58 percent of inpatients being COVID positive on November 29. The availability of staffed ICU beds also has continued to be low locally,” Bever said.

According to SHDHD’s COVID dashboard, community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been in a sustained high “red” level for 17 weeks in the four-county health district, based on the weekly test positivity levels and the rolling seven-day averages of new cases per 100,000 people. Community positivity was 32.8 percent for the week ending November 27 and overall positivity was 12.2 percent. Positivity of 10 percent or more is high community transmission. The case rate was 418 new cases per 100,000 in the past 7 days ending November 30 (100 cases/100,000 in seven days is high community transmission).

The health district logged 145 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the first four days of the week ending November 27. After a reporting gap over the long holiday weekend, SHDHD logged another 142 confirmed positive cases on Monday and Tuesday of the present week.

“SHDHD’s COVID-19 Advisory remains in effect,” Bever said. “There are a number of conditions occurring that will likely keep us at a high level of respiratory virus transmission for the foreseeable future. These conditions will lead to additional increase in the number of positive cases, will add to the heavy burden in the hospitals, and will likely lead to more deaths,” she said.

Bever listed fall and winter events, holiday gatherings, travel, relatively low vaccination rates for COVID-19 and influenza, another new highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variant (Omicron) identified globally, and inconsistent prevention practices as potential contributors to sustaining trends in the wrong direction. “This does not bode well for our communities to move past the pandemic,” she said.

“We are asking people to make a difference in their communities. Please help protect your family, friends and coworkers, and all of our public safety and health workers. Now, more than ever, it is critical for people to get vaccinated for flu and COVID and to get COVID boosters as soon as they are eligible,” Bever said. “Also, please use - and encourage others to use - multiple prevention layers for the best protection from virus transmission, infection, and severe illness.”

Bever emphasized the layers of prevention that are effective against influenza and COVID-19 respiratory viruses:

  • Get vaccinated for COVID and Influenza. Get a COVID booster as soon as you are eligible.
  • Wear 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.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. Outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, stay home from work, school and other activities.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Symptoms can be mild.

“We are urging people to protect themselves and others, and to please help give our 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.

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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