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South Heartland Health reports 16 Deaths related to COVID-19

South Heartland Health reports 16 new COVID-19 related deaths.
South Heartland Health reports 16 new COVID-19 related deaths.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:37 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In the weekly COVID-19 update on January 4, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported 16 deaths attributed to COVID-19 were confirmed this week. The department also reported ongoing high community transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Executive Director Michele Bever said the reported deaths of South Heartland residents since the beginning of the pandemic now totals 134, which brings the health district’s overall case fatality rate to 1.7 percent. Bever said the deaths reported out this week occurred over the past six weeks. SHDHD does not report deaths until receiving death certificate confirmation of COVID-19 from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“Our hearts go out to the family members and friends of these individuals who lost their lives to COVID-19,” Bever said.

In the weekly update, the department reported ongoing high community transmission of the virus in the four-county district, based on the weekly test positivity levels and the rolling seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 people. Bever said last week’s testing had increased 53 percent compared to the week before, with 820 tests conducted. Community positivity was 31 percent for the week ending January 1 and overall positivity (which includes long term care surveillance testing) decreased to 14.5 percent. Positivity of 10 percent or more is high community transmission.

Bever also reported the district’s case rate has been increasing and currently stands at 398 new cases per 100,000 for the most recent seven days ending January 4. Bever said the health district logged 142 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases for the week ending January 1, a 27 percent increase over the previous week. The department logged another 114 confirmed positive cases on Monday and Tuesday of the present week. To date, South Heartland has recorded 7,937 confirmed infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

SHDHD’s hospital dashboard indicated 27 percent of staffed ICU beds available and an aggregate census of eleven COVID-19 inpatients as of Tuesday morning’s hospital reports. The percent of hospital inpatients that were COVID-19 positive was 29 percent.

Bever said the local and state health systems remain over-burdened in their capacity to provide care for critically ill Nebraskans. “What we can do to help is to get fully vaccinated and boosted to protect ourselves from severe illness and the need for hospitalization,” she said.

“We know from preliminary analysis of Nebraska data that fully vaccinated individuals are eight times less likely to be hospitalized than unvaccinated people. Boosted individuals are thirty-six times less likely to be hospitalized than unvaccinated people.”

The health department is encouraging South Heartland residents to get fully-vaccinated and boosted as soon as they are eligible. To date, 47 percent of South Heartland residents are fully vaccinated and 27 percent have received an additional booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

In light of high community transmission and identification of the Omicron variant in South Heartland, Bever also recommends 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 around individuals who are at higher risk of severe infection.
  • Avoiding crowded places or 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 six feet distance from others
  • If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, getting tested before being around others.

Residents may 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 5 years and older. Booster eligibility is expanding, so check for the current eligibility requirements before visiting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic. For locations of COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccine, refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org. Please note the time of the Wednesday vaccine clinics at Allen’s in Hastings is now 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, weekly. Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.

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