South Heartland Health reports three new deaths from COVID-19

South Heartland Health reports positive cases trending down in the area
South Heartland Health reports positive cases trending down in the area(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 6:41 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In the weekly COVID-19 update on February 15, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) shared information on COVID-19 treatments and reported three additional deaths attributed to COVID-19. The department also reported a continuing decline in positivity and case rate, although both metrics are still indicating high community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. Due to the improving metrics, SHDHD downgraded the department’s COVID-19 Alert to a COVID-19 Advisory.

SHDHD executive director Michele Bever said community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is still above the threshold for “high” in the health district overall. She cautioned that as long as there is high community transmission, vulnerable residents are more likely to be exposed to the virus, which can result in severe illness, may require hospitalization, and may progress to intensive care, ventilator assistance for breathing, or death.

Bever said effective treatments are not as readily available as they were before Omicron became the most common variant. “For individuals who are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 illness, timing of treatment is critical. These people should not wait to see how their illness progresses,” she said.

“People who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 should keep some at-home COVID-19 test kits on hand or seek testing early. If you have even mild symptoms, get tested,” Bever said. “High risk individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should talk to their health care provider to see if they meet the criteria for the oral (pill) antiviral treatment, which needs to be started within five days of symptom onset in order to be effective at reducing the severity of the disease.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those more at risk of progressing to severe COVID-19 illness include people who have one or more of the following conditions: over age 65; immunocompromised due to cancer treatments or autoimmune diseases; chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease; and other underlying health conditions.

The health department encourages residents to protect themselves and others who are at risk for severe COVID-19 illness by using multiple layers of prevention to reduce the risk of infection, severe illness, hospitalization and death.

“The most effective layer of prevention for everyone age five and above is getting fully vaccinated and boosted. This includes those at high risk of getting very sick with infection,” Bever said.

Bever also noted that monoclonal antibody infusion treatments effective against Omicron are in short supply and, like antiviral medications, are being prioritized for individuals at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19 illness. “Since these treatments are in short supply, we can’t count on them being available for us,” she said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is readily available. Vaccination stimulates your immune system to make your own antibodies, priming your body to fight a future infection; it provides longer lasting protection than monoclonal antibody treatment,” she said.

In addition, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, vaccination reduces the risk of long-lasting or serious side effects from COVID-19 infection including Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and Long-Haul COVID-19.

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 recommended for anyone five years and older. For locations of COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccine, refer to the SHDHD website, SHDHD holds Wednesday vaccine clinics at Allen’s in Hastings from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, weekly. Walk-ins are welcome. Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.

Additional SHDHD COVID-19 data updates:

  • three new deaths bring the total to 142 since the beginning of the pandemic. The overall case fatality rate is 1.4 percent.
  • 123 confirmed COVID-19 cases logged last week, a 32 percent decrease over the previous week’s total of 181 cases. There have been 27 confirmed cases counted in the current week through Tuesday. The new cumulative total confirmed cases for the health district is 10,090 since March 2020.
  • The percent positive tests, or positivity, which is one metric used to measure community transmission of the virus, dropped for the week ending February 12. Total positivity for the week was 12 percent, indicating one of every eight to nine people who were tested were positive for COVID-19. Community positivity (based on people who do not live or work in long term care), dropped to 23 percent last week, meaning about one in every four people who were tested were positive for COVID-19. This is 2.3 times higher than the threshold for “high” community transmission, which is 10 percent.
  • The district saw another slight drop in testing, with 744 tests logged last week (a drop of five percent from the previous week).
  • The district’s rolling seven-day total new cases per 100,000 people decreased. As of February 15, the seven-day total had dropped to 175 cases per 100,000 people. This is still 1.75 times higher than the threshold for “high” community transmission, which is a rolling seven-day total of 100 cases per 100,000 people.
  • Positivity in long-term care facilities increased to 4.7 percent last week compared to 2.4 percent the prior week. In the past two weeks, five long-term care facilities have reported outbreaks, with a total of 12 staff and 21 residents testing positive for COVID-19. Resident vaccination rates are high for most skilled nursing facilities and residents who test positive typically are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
  • Hospital capacity metrics have improved again. As of February 15, there were 6 COVID-19 patients hospitalized and 45.5 percent of staffed ICU beds were available.
  • COVID-19 vaccination: 48 percent of residents are fully vaccinated; 28 percent have received boosters. To date, six percent of children ages 5-11, 19 percent of children ages 12-15, and 24 percent of young people ages 16-19; 42 percent of ages 20-34; 54 percent of ages 35-44; 54 percent of ages 45-54; 62 percent of ages 55-64; 89 percent of ages 65-74; 89 percent of ages 75-84; and 92 percent of ages 85+ are fully vaccinated.
  • SHDHD’s COVID-19 Alert downgraded to COVID-19 Advisory. The Advisory is informational to help residents understand the level of community transmission and actions they can take to protect themselves and others.

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