South Heartland Health gives COVID-19 update
HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In the weekly COVID-19 update on February 22, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reported further decline in positivity and case rate. The department also reported the arrival of just under 3,500 COVID-19 at-home test kits today, set to be distributed to various locations within the four-county health district for access by the public.
SHDHD executive director Michele Bever said community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the health district has dropped below the threshold for ‘high’ to ‘substantial’, based on the district’s rolling seven-day total of new cases per 100,000 people. As of February 22, the seven-day total had dropped to 73 per 100,000 people. “Substantial” community transmission is a seven-day total of 50.00-99.99 cases per 100,000 people. “Low” community transmission is below a seven-day total of 10 cases per 100,000 people. The district’s case rate has been “high” (above 100 cases per 100,000 people) since August 16, 2021.
The percent positive tests, or positivity, is the other metric used by SHDHD to measure community transmission of the virus. Positivity dropped for the week ending February 19 to 7.4 percent, indicating one of every thirteen to fourteen people who were tested were positive for COVID-19 and indicating “moderate” community transmission.
Community positivity (based on people who do not live or work in long term care), dropped to 19.9 percent last week, meaning about one in every five people who were tested were positive for COVID-19. transmission). Positivity of 10 percent or above is considered “high” community transmission, indicating there is still significant community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“While we have not yet reached “low” community transmission across the district, the good news is we’ve seen a steady decline in case rate and positivity since our local peak during the last full week of January,” Bever said. “We appear to be on the back side of this most recent surge of the virus.”
Bever encouraged residents to monitor their health and get tested if they experience symptoms. She emphasized that timing of treatment is critical, especially for individuals who are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 illness. “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.
Bever announced the arrival today of just under 3,500 eMed COVID-19 at-home test kits into the health district. The test kits will be distributed to schools and childcare centers for their use. Kits will also be available for the general public at various locations in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster Counties.
The eMed test kits have a virtually-guided option for doing the test and receiving a verified result. Individuals can also opt to follow the instructions and complete the test on their own. A list of locations where members of the public can pick up free eMed test kits will be posted on South Heartland’s website: southheartlandhealth.org.
Bever said vaccination is still important to protect against severe illness and to reduce the risk of long-lasting or serious side effects from COVID-19 infection, including Long-Haul COVID-19. She 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.
SHDHD recommends COVID-19 vaccines for anyone five years and older. For locations of COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccine, refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org. 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:
- 43 confirmed COVID-19 cases logged last week, a 65 percent decrease over the previous week’s total of 123 cases. There have been 17 confirmed cases counted in the current week through Tuesday. The new cumulative total for the health district is 10,173 since March 2020.
- SHDHD completed a data quality review over the weekend, resulting in removal of duplicate cases and addition of previously unreported positive test results (conducted October 2021 – January 2022 and recently reported to the health department), for a net increase of 54 cases. The previously unreported positive lab results are now included in the data for the weeks that the COVID-19 tests were performed.
- The district saw another drop in testing, with 541 tests logged last week, a drop of 27 percent from the previous week.
- Positivity in long-term care facilities decreased to 1.5 percent last week compared to 4.7 percent the prior week. In the past two weeks, four long-term care facilities have reported outbreaks, with a total of six staff and 11 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 22, there was 1 COVID-19 patient hospitalized and 63.6 percent of staffed ICU beds were available.
- COVID-19 vaccination: 48.3 percent of residents are fully vaccinated; 28% 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; 55 percent of ages 45-54; 62 percent of ages 55-64; 90 percent of ages 65-74; 89 percent of ages 75-84; and 92 percent of ages 85+ are fully vaccinated.
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