Seven additional deaths reported by South Heartland Health from COVID-19

South Heartland District Health Department reports new COVID-19 deaths in their four-county...
South Heartland District Health Department reports new COVID-19 deaths in their four-county region.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 8:18 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In the weekly COVID-19 report, the South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported high positivity and new weekly cases in the four-county district continue to indicate high community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, resulting in extension of the COVID-19 Advisory that has been in place since September 15. The department also reported seven additional deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total (cumulative) deaths to 117.

SHDHD executive director Michele Bever said the additional deaths occurred over the past month and were all previously reported cases. The health department does not report deaths until they receive notification attributing the death to COVID-19. “With these additional deaths, the overall case fatality rate for our district rose to 1.58 percent.”

“We are saddened by the loss of more South Heartland residents to COVID-19 and we urge people to help protect those who may be more vulnerable to this disease by practicing prevention to reduce the spread, including getting vaccinated,” Bever said. “The continued high case counts and worsening hospital capacity across the state are indicating this virus needs to be taken seriously. South Heartland communities need to take effective prevention steps, if we expect our health systems across the state to be available for our health care needs.”

Bever said local hospitals in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties are continuing to report a high COVID-19 inpatient census and the availability of staffed ICU beds is low. “The aggregate census of COVID-19 inpatients totaled 23 in Tuesday morning’s hospital reports – the highest we have seen since mid-December 2020. The percent of inpatients that were COVID-19 positive, at 68 percent, is a record high – the highest since last year at this time,” Bever said.

Community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 remains at a high level (in “red”) for 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 39.9 percent for the week ending December 4 and overall positivity (which includes long term care surveillance testing) was 17.4 percent. Positivity of 10 percent or more is high community transmission. The case rate was 449 new cases per 100,000 in the past seven days ending December 7, with 100 cases/100,000 in seven days considered high community transmission.

“Please note that SHDHD’s COVID-19 Advisory remains in effect as long as we have high community transmission of the virus,” Bever said. “The Advisory means that transmission is high. The purpose of the COVID-19 Advisory is to emphasize the importance of prevention to reverse the trends, protecting our most vulnerable, and giving our filled-to-capacity hospitals a break,” she said.

Bever said the health district logged 251 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending December 4 and another 48 confirmed positive cases on Monday and Tuesday of the present week. In addition, eight cases that had tested positive in January, February, September and October of 2021 were recently reported to South Heartland and have now been added to the case counts and hospitalization counts in the appropriate months of testing and hospital admission.

Bever said that many people testing positive for COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms, especially if they are fully vaccinated, but that some are less able to fight off the virus, especially if they are not yet vaccinated. She emphasized that prevention is critical and vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 illness. “Now, more than ever, we hope residents will make the decisions to get vaccinated for flu and COVID and to get COVID boosters as soon as they are eligible,” Bever said. “Also, we are encouraging everyone 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, including:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated.
  • Even people who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission, as is the current situation in South Heartland district
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. Outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • 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.
  • Get vaccinated for COVID and Influenza. Get a COVID booster as soon as you 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. COVID-19 vaccines are widely available across the four-county health district and recommended for anyone five years and older. Boosters are available for all adults 18 and over when they are eligible. For locations of COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccine, refer to the SHDHD website, Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.

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