COVID, respiratory illnesses rising in South Heartland district

Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 4:18 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (Press Release) - South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever reported that COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise sharply, more long-term care facilities are experiencing outbreaks, and virus levels in wastewater have climbed to very high levels.

The health district is also seeing increasing numbers of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, along with rising numbers of patients hospitalized for these respiratory illnesses and for COVID-19.

“We’ve seen very sharp increases in COVID-19 cases in our district in the last several weeks,” Bever said. “Today (Thursday), our 7-day case rate is 285 cases per 100,000, 2.85 times higher than the “high” threshold of 100 cases/100,000. And, this doesn’t even include any of the at-home COVID-19 test kit results, because those are not reported to us.”

Bever said rates of influenza and RSV were also increasing locally, according to the most recent Weekly Influenza (Flu) Report posted by Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for the week ending 11/19/22. “The South Heartland influenza case rate that week, which is nearly 2 weeks old, had increased to 17.5 per 100,000. This was comparable to many other rural health districts in Nebraska. But, for RSV, our case rate that week was 65.7 per 100,000 – the second highest rate in the state.”

Bever reported that local healthcare and long-term care facilities are seeing the effects of this high-level community transmission of respiratory viruses. Five long-term care facilities have reported staff or residents testing positive for COVID in the past two weeks, with some of these experiencing significant outbreaks among staff and residents.

According to Bever, the district hospital census for respiratory illnesses has more than doubled in the past 3 weeks. She said this includes admissions for COVID-19, influenza and RSV, and it includes patients less than 1 year old and up to 90 years of age.

“It’s not too late to get up to date on vaccinations to protect against severe COVID-19 and influenza illnesses. None of the patients hospitalized last week for severe COVID illness were up to date on their COVID vaccines. Staying up to date on COVID vaccines includes getting the bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine,” she said.

“And, there’s never a wrong time to practice good hygiene and preventative steps to reduce the spread of any of these respiratory illnesses, especially RSV, for which there is no vaccine,” she said.

“Our health department team’s wish for the winter holiday season is that residents are able to enjoy the season uninterrupted,” Bever said. “Take care of yourselves and your loved ones - - help keep yourself and your family protected by staying up to date on all of your vaccinations, and by continuing to practice wellness and prevention to reduce the spread of these respiratory illnesses,” she said.

For more information on COVID-19, or for locations offering COVID-19 vaccine, COVID-19 tests or influenza vaccine, refer to the SHDHD website,, or call the health department office, 1-877-238-7595.

SHDHD COVID-19 dashboard update on 12.01.2022:

  • 80 confirmed COVID-19 cases logged last week (week ending 11/26/22) compared to 42 the week prior
  • 129 confirmed cases counted in the current week through Thursday
  • Long-term Care Facilities: 5 facilities with staff and/or residents testing positive in the past 2 weeks
  • Case rate is “very high”: 285 cases per 100,000 for the past 7 days on 11/17/22 (A case rate of 100 or more per 100,000 in 7 days is considered “high level”, 50 to 99.99 is “substantial”, 10 to 49.99 is “moderate”, and less than 10 is considered a “low” case rate)
  • Community weekly positivity: 45% for the week ending 11/26/22 (10% is considered High)
  • Testing for the week ending 11/26/22 was 200% higher than 4 weeks prior (310 confirmed test results, up from 101) and 40% higher than the week immediately prior (310 confirmed test results, up from 220). Testing does not include results from at-home tests, which are not included in the case counts and are not reported to the health department.
  • Cumulative case total for the health district: 11,731 since March 2020
  • Preliminary data in the most current Nebraska SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Surveillance Report shows that BA.5 makes up 60% of the circulating virus, new variants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 constitute about 20% of the circulating virus, and variant BF.7 is about 7% of the circulating virus in Nebraska.
  • Most current Nebraska Wastewater Surveillance Report continues to show “very high” and increasing virus levels for Hastings (samples from 11/15/22).
  • Other South Heartland District COVID-19 trends may be found on SHDHD’s COVID-19 dashboard at