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South Heartland Health updates COVID-19, vaccination numbers

South Heartland District Health Department reports community transmission still high in their...
South Heartland District Health Department reports community transmission still high in their four-county area.(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 8:30 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In the weekly COVID-19 update, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported on vaccination status of hospitalized patients. Of the COVID-19-positive patients admitted to South Heartland hospitals in the past four weeks (December 20, 2021 – January 17, 2022), 97.5 percent were not vaccinated.

SHDHD executive director Michele Bever said that local hospital trends were demonstrating the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine in reducing severe illness and the need for hospitalizations. Vaccine effectiveness is also demonstrated by data released on Wednesday by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services summarizing Nebraska COVID-19 hospitalization rates by vaccination status. In December 2021, people who were fully vaccinated (but not yet boosted) were 11 times less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and people who were boosted were 46 times less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than people who were not fully vaccinated.

SHDHD also reported extremely high community transmission of the virus in the four-county jurisdiction, which led to the department issuing a COVID-19 Health Alert on January 15. Community transmission levels indicated by data reported today surpassed levels reported with the Health Alert. The weekly total positivity was 30.6 percent and weekly community positivity was 53.9 percent for the week ending January 15. The most recent rolling seven-day total of new cases per 100,000 for the health district was 1,513 as of January 19.

Bever said the four-county region experienced the highest volume of testing recorded since December 2020, nearly 13 months ago, with 1,342 tests reported last week. Testing sites have been swamped with requests for testing appointments and there are shortages of some types of COVID-19 testing supplies. Bever said some testing sites with supply concerns are considering temporarily prioritizing testing for symptomatic individuals.

The department logged 511 confirmed COVID-19 cases last week and already 461 confirmed cases in the current week through Wednesday. The new total of confirmed cases is 9,091 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of these, three more sequence results of specimens collected in early January were returned this week for cases that were previously reported – all three (100 percent) were identified as the Omicron variant. Ten more sequence results of specimens collected in November 2021, all Delta, were also added to variant counts on the dashboard today.

Bever also reported increased community transmission was continuing to impact long-term care facilities in the district, where residents are at higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death due to age and underlying health conditions. In the past two weeks, five resident cases and 35 staff cases of COVID-19 were reported from 10 affected facilities.

Bever said the health department is hearing about staffing shortages at health care facilities, schools, daycares and other worksites. The shortages are due to staff out ill with COVID-19, influenza, or other illnesses, and/or because staff are out from work to care for sick children. “Having high community transmission of COVID-19 at the same time that other illnesses like influenza are spreading, is very hard on the workforce,” she said.

“I’ll repeat what I’ve said previously. What we can do in our communities, is to double-down on efforts to reduce spread of the virus,” Bever said. “This includes 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.

The health department is encouraging South Heartland residents to get fully-vaccinated and boosted as soon as they are eligible. 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 recommended for anyone five years and older. 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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