South Heartland Health updates COVID-19, Vaccination numbers

South Heartland District Health Department holds COVID-19 press briefing Friday morning.
South Heartland District Health Department holds COVID-19 press briefing Friday morning.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 7:43 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In Tuesday’s weekly COVID-19 update, the South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported ongoing high positivity and high weekly new cases in the four-county district indicating ongoing high community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Due to local case trends, local and statewide hospital capacity concerns, and global COVID-19 activity, the health department is urging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

SHDHD executive director Michele Bever said the department is bracing for an additional surge in cases in the coming months, based on trends seen in other countries. In the United Kingdom, the Omicron variant is quickly replacing the Delta variant, causing a rapid upswing in cases and setting the stage for a large surge in additional hospitalizations.

Locally, indicators of community transmission dropped slightly from the previous week, but remained 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 32 percent for the week ending December 11 and overall positivity (which includes long term care surveillance testing) was 13.5 percent. Positivity of 10 percent or more is high community transmission. The case rate was 312 new cases per 100,000 in the past seven days ending December 14, with 100 cases/100,000 in seven days considered high community transmission.

Bever said the health district logged 123 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending December 11 and another 66 confirmed positive cases on Monday and Tuesday of the present week. In addition, 45 previously reported local cases had sequence results reported, with all 45 identified as the Delta variant.

“The local hospital reports for our four-county area are continuing to indicate a high COVID-19 inpatient census and Tuesday morning’s report on availability of staffed ICU beds showed a drop to just nine percent available,” Bever said. According to the South Heartland Hospital Data dashboard, the aggregate census of COVID-19 inpatients totaled 17 from Tuesday morning’s hospital reports and the percent of inpatients that were COVID-19 positive was 43.6 percent.

“We have a very critical situation across our state,” Bever said. “The larger health systems that we rely on for higher levels of critical care are reporting they are beyond capacity and they are unable to accept transfer patients from rural areas, such as the hospitals in our district,” Bever said. “If you, your child, your grandparent, have life-threatening injuries or illnesses, the care you need may not be available, period.”

“One thing we can do to help the situation is to get vaccinated to reduce our risk of severe illness and the need for hospitalization from COVID-19. We know from Nebraska data that individuals who are unvaccinated have a 10 times higher risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19 compared with individuals who are fully vaccinated,” Bever said.

“It’s not too late to get your COVID-19 vaccine. In our district, vaccination rates continue to climb slowly, but they are increasing week over week as more people start and complete their vaccination series,” Bever said. According to SHDHD’s vaccine dashboard, 46.4 percent of all South Heartland residents have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series, and 49.9 percent have received at least one dose. Of those age 12 and older, 54.9 percent are fully vaccinated and 59.1 percent have received at least one dose.

SHDHD 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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