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Cases rising, BA.2-variant of COVID confirmed in South Heartland District

South Heartland District Health Department holds COVID-19 press briefing
South Heartland District Health Department holds COVID-19 press briefing(Hailey Mach, KSNB)
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In the weekly COVID-19 update on April 19, South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) Executive Director Michele Bever reported that community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 has increased based on the rolling number of cases per 100K in the past 7 days (increased to moderate - yellow level) and community positivity (increased to high - red level).

“Testing in our area decreased last week but the number of confirmed cases increased,” Bever said. “Cases more than doubled to eight confirmed cases last week compared to 3 the week before.”

The C.D.C.’s Community Levels, which are updated weekly on Thursdays and are a combined metric that includes hospital data, still show all four South Heartland counties in green, the C.D.C.’s lowest risk level.

Bever also reported that the omicron variant, BA.2, has now been identified among the cases in South Heartland District.

“We are not surprised, as this variant is becoming predominant across the country,” she said. “What residents need to know about BA.2 is that it is more highly transmissible than the original omicron and that COVID-19 vaccination is effective in protecting against severe BA.2 illness, hospitalization and death.”

Along with vaccination, the health department recommends residents continue to be vigilant about other prevention layers.

“Regardless of any relaxation or adjustments in restrictions from the C.D.C., the federal courts, the travel industry, state or local governments, worksites or event venues, it is important for each person to evaluate their risk and take steps to protect themselves and others, accordingly,” Bever said. “This is especially important for people who are more likely to get very sick with COVID-19 and for people who live with, work with, or care for others who are more likely to have severe illness. Studies continue to show that protection from severe illness is higher in individuals who are fully vaccinated and boosted. We encourage residents to be up-to-date on their COVID vaccinations, which means getting the initial series, followed by a booster after the recommended length of time. Second boosters are also encouraged for those who are eligible.”

Individuals who are eligible to receive a second booster to increase their protection against severe disease from COVID-19, include:

  • Certain immunocompromised individuals and people over the age of 50 who received an initial booster dose at least 4 months ago will be eligible for another mRNA (Moderna or Pfizer-BioNtech) booster.
  • Adults who received a primary vaccine and booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months ago may now receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Bever suggests all households keep some at-home COVID-19 test kits on hand for rapid testing in case of symptoms. A list of locations where members of the public can pick up the free eMed at-home COVID-19 test kits is posted on South Heartland’s website: southheartlandhealth.org. The locations for other types of COVID-19 testing are also listed on the website.

SHDHD recommends COVID-19 vaccines for anyone 5 years and older. 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. For locations of COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccine, refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org.

Additional SHDHD COVID-19 data updates:

  • 8 confirmed COVID-19 cases logged last week compared to 3 the week before; 2 confirmed cases counted in the current week through Tuesday.
  • Cumulative case total for the health district is 10,252 since March 2020.
  • Rolling 7-day total of new cases per 100,000 people is 15.5 cases per 100K, considered moderate (April 19). “Low” community transmission is less than 10 cases per 100K in the past 7 days.
  • Percent positive tests, or positivity: Community positivity (based on tests in people who do not live or work in long term care) increased to 12.3% for the week ending April 16, indicating one of every 8 people who were tested were positive for COVID-19. This is “high” positivity, following 2 weeks in a row at “low” community positivity. Goal for “low” transmission is to get to, and stay below, 5% positivity.
  • Surveillance testing in long-term care facilities: in the past 2 weeks, one (1) long-term care facility reported residents or staff testing positive for COVID-19.
  • Testing decreased by 30%, with 185 tests logged last week compared to 266 the previous week. Reminder: at-home/self-tests are not included in the case or test counts.
  • Hospital capacity metrics continue to be favorable. As of April 19, no inpatients were COVID-19 positive and 54.6% of staffed ICU beds were available.
  • As of April 14, C.D.C.’s COVID-19 Community Levels tool showed Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties at ‘Low’ community transmission level. These levels are updated weekly on Thursday evenings.
  • SHDHD COVID-19 vaccination: 49.1% of all residents are fully vaccinated and 29% are boosted. To date, 6% of children ages 5-11, 19% of children ages 12-15, and 24% of young people ages 16-19; 43% of ages 20-34; 54% of ages 35-44; 55% of ages 45-54; 62% of ages 55-64; 90% of ages 65-74; 90% of ages 75-84; and 94% of ages 85+ are fully vaccinated.

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