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South Heartland Health updates COVID-19 and vaccine numbers

South Heartland Health reports 45 percent of ICU beds are available at district hospitals.
South Heartland Health reports 45 percent of ICU beds are available at district hospitals.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 7:48 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In the weekly COVID-19 update, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported another death attributed to COVID-19 and continuing high levels of SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission in the four-county health district. Executive director Michele Bever said due to sustained high community transmission of the virus, the local COVID-19 Advisory would remain in effect into the new year.

Bever said the COVID-19 Advisory serves as a way to notify the public about the high community transmission and the risk of COVID-19 exposure within the health district. The Advisory was first issued on September 15, 2021, for the health department’s jurisdiction of Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.

“The rolling seven-day new cases per 100,000 and the weekly positivity have remained at high levels for the past three and a half months. Our local and state health systems are still stretched thin in their capacity to provide care for critically ill Nebraskans,” Bever said. “We recommend using multiple layers of prevention to reduce the risk of infection, severe illness, hospitalization and death, including:

  • Getting fully vaccinated and boosted
  • Getting tested before attending indoor gatherings, especially with individuals who are at higher risk of severe infection.
  • Avoiding crowded places
  • Avoiding confined indoor spaces
  • Staying home when you have symptoms
  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth in public indoor settings
  • Washing hands frequently
  • Keeping 6 feet distance from others

“Full vaccination plus a booster is the best way to protect yourself from severe illness and the need for hospitalization, especially in light of the omicron variant spreading rapidly across the country,” Bever said. “Although omicron has not been detected in any of our four counties yet, we would be surprised if it isn’t already here,” she said.

Bever noted that the health department is following the CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine that were announced December 27. According to the CDC’s announcement, the changes reflect the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious, including characteristics of the rapidly-spreading omicron variant. The recommendations for isolation (for infected/COVID-positive individuals) and quarantine (for people exposed/in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19) are posted on the health department’s website: southheartlandhealth.org.

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 had dropped again, to the lowest weekly number since late August, with 535 tests conducted last week. Community positivity was 32 percent for the week ending December 25 and overall positivity (which includes long term care surveillance testing) increased slightly to 17.8 percent. Positivity of 10 percent or more is high community transmission.

Bever also reported the case rate increased since last week’s report to 281 new cases per 100,000 for the most recent seven days ending December 28, with 100 cases/100,000 in seven days considered high community transmission. Bever said the health district logged 112 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending December 25, which was a short reporting week, and another 76 confirmed positive cases on Monday and Tuesday of the present week.

South Heartland’s hospital dashboard indicated some improvement over last week, with 45 percent of staffed ICU beds available and an aggregate census of ten COVID-19 inpatients indicated from Tuesday morning’s hospital reports. The percent of hospital inpatients that were COVID-19 positive was 31 percent.

According to Bever, the additional death occurred in a previously reported case. The health department does not report deaths until it receives notification from Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services attributing the death to COVID-19. The health district’s overall death toll due to COVID-19 now stands at 118, with an overall case fatality rate of 1.5 percent.

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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