Local COVID-19 trends predict upcoming surge

The South Heartland District Health Department says current trends are suggesting another COVID...
The South Heartland District Health Department says current trends are suggesting another COVID surge could be on the way(WBRC)
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 9:52 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - “Based on our COVID-19 trends locally and across Nebraska, and watching what is happening in other countries, it looks like we will be repeating what has been happening over the last two years: we are expecting another large surge in cases coming within the next few months,” said South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever.

In the health department’s COVID update on July 26, Bever reported that COVID-19 trends in the health district, comprised of Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties, are mimicking trends of the previous 2 years, although the timing has shifted. Reviewing daily case counts over time is one way to see these repeating trends.

After the initial wave of cases in spring of 2020, South Heartland’s lowest case counts were in June 2020 and June 2021, followed by steady increases and leading to surges with peaks in November 2020 and in September/November of 2021, respectively. Cases were still relatively high when the omicron variant arrived, causing another surge that peaked in late January 2022. April saw the lowest daily case counts of 2022 to date, similar to the June counts of the previous 2 years. Since April, cases have steadily increased again, as the variants BA.4 and BA.5 have spread. Bever stated that BA.5 is currently the most predominant variant in Nebraska.

Bever said COVID case rates and positivity are also marking the progress of the current surge. Testing was up 20% last week over the previous week. Weekly community positivity was 45% for the week ending July 23, 4.5 times higher than the 10% threshold considered to be high transmission. The 7-day case rate was 243 per 100,000 on July 26, 2.4 times higher than the 100 cases per 100K threshold for high transmission. Both metrics are undercounts, since at-home test results are not reported to the health department. Bever said the department had noted an increased interest in at-home COVID test kits, which are free and available at multiple locations across the health district.

In other trends, Bever noted that, to date, 74% of the district’s long-term care facilities had provided booster shots for their residents and interested staff. Even so, more long-term care facilities in South Heartland’s counties are being affected by the high community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. The affected facilities must then reinstate their outbreak policies to help reduce spread in the facility. In the past two weeks, nine facilities reported cases (47% of the facilities), with a total of 13 residents and 29 staff who tested positive.

Bever also noted that the number of COVID patients requiring hospitalization had increased – with a total of 5 patients in South Heartland hospitals as of July 26.

“This reflects the fact that there is widespread infection in the community,” Bever said. “With widespread infection, higher numbers of people are infected, so the number that are affected by severe illness also increases.”

“Based on the surges we’ve seen locally with previous variants over the course of the pandemic, and based on what we are seeing currently in other countries with the BA.5 variant, we are at the beginning of a new surge that is likely to affect even more people than did the omicron surge we had early this year,” Bever said. “This is why it is so important to stay up to date on vaccine and to continue to protect yourself and others in all the ways you can, especially if you are over age 65, are immune-compromised, or have underlying health conditions.”

“If you do get infected, make sure to contact a health care provider as soon as possible to find out if you are eligible for the COVID antiviral medicines,” she added. “If so, you will need to start taking the meds within the first 5 days for them to be most effective at reducing the severity of your illness.”

For locations offering COVID-19 vaccine or COVID-19 tests, refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org or call the health department office, 1-877-238-7595. For additional information about COVID-19 vaccines for children, see the interview with local pediatrician Dr. Daniel Leonard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3aFODWNV-Q. For weekly state, national and global COVID-19 updates, visit the UNMC Global Center for Health Security: https://www.unmc.edu/healthsecurity/covid-19/biweekly-updates.html.

SHDHD COVID-19 dashboard update on 07.26.2022: 82 confirmed COVID-19 cases logged last week compared to 80 the week before; 61 confirmed cases counted in the current week through Tuesday. Cumulative case total for the health district is 10,871 since March 2020. Other South Heartland District COVID-19 trends may be found on SHDHD’s COVID-19 dashboard at southheartlandhealth.org.

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