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South Heartland Health updates COVID-19, Vaccination numbers

South Heartland Health Reports around 27 percent of ICU beds are available.
South Heartland Health Reports around 27 percent of ICU beds are available.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 7:52 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In Tuesday’s weekly COVID-19 update, the area’s top public health official reported on the COVID-19 vaccination status in the four-county health district. South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever said that just shy of fifty percent of residents age five and over had completed a 1-dose (J&J) or two-dose (Moderna or Pfizer) series of COVID-19 vaccine.

“Overall, 49.7 percent of South Heartland residents eligible for the vaccine are fully vaccinated,” Bever said. “Our residents age 65+ are in the lead, at 88 percent fully vaccinated, while just two percent of 5- to 11-year-olds are fully vaccinated,” she said. The 5- to 11-year-olds are the most recent age group to become eligible for the vaccine when the FDA authorized its use for younger ages at the end of October.

In light of the upcoming season of holiday activities, Bever encouraged unvaccinated residents to get their first doses and recommended that guests and hosts get tested for COVID-19 before participating in indoor holiday gatherings.

“Locally, our indicators of community transmission – positivity and the weekly rate of new cases – are showing us to be in the RED, with ongoing high community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19,” Bever said. “This is very concerning, considering the increase in travel and gatherings typical for this time of year, and the threat of the omicron variant, which is highly transmissible and rapidly replacing delta as the dominant strain across the country.”

“Please plan to get a COVID test before you host or attend a gathering. Pay attention to mild symptoms and stay home if you are ill. Testing, along with physical distancing and masking, are important ways to protect yourself, your family and your friends through the holiday season,” Bever said. “And, if you haven’t gotten one yet – please get your COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself from severe illness and the need for hospitalization.”

Locally, indicators of community transmission remained similar to the previous week, 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. Bever said testing was the lowest it has been since early November, with 634 tests conducted last week, compared to a recent high of over 1000 tests/week in mid-November. Community positivity was 32 percent for the week ending December 18 and overall positivity (which includes long term care surveillance testing) increased from 13.5 percent to 17.5 percent. Positivity of 10 percent or more is high community transmission.

Bever also reported the case rate decreased to 252 new cases per 100,000 for the most recent seven days ending December 21, with 100 cases/100,000 in seven days considered high community transmission. Bever said the health district logged 119 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending December 18 and another 71 confirmed positive cases on Monday and Tuesday of the present week.

“The local hospital reports for our four-county area are continuing to indicate a significant COVID-19 inpatient census and Tuesday morning’s report on availability of staffed ICU beds showed only 27.3 percent available,” Bever said. According to South Heartland’s Hospital Data dashboard, the aggregate census of COVID-19 inpatients totaled 14 from Tuesday morning’s hospital reports and the percent of inpatients that were COVID-19 positive was 35.9 percent.

“We continue to have a very critical situation with the health systems across our state,” Bever said. “And, we know from Nebraska data that individuals who are unvaccinated have a ten times higher risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19 compared with individuals who are fully vaccinated.”

According to recent information released by Nebraska’s acting state epidemiologist, Dr. Matthew Donahue, COVID-19 vaccinations prevented 1,500-2,000 hospitalizations and about 500 deaths in Nebraska in the four-week period from Nov. 7-Dec. 4. “Vaccination is a powerful prevention tool that saves lives. Please get a shot to keep yourself and your loved ones out of the hospital,” Bever said.

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, southheartlandhealth.org. Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.

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