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South Heartland District Health Department

Five additional Adams County residents have been confirmed as positive cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, since the weekend, the South Heartland District Health Department announced Monday evening.

The new patients include three men — two in their 20s, one in his 30s — and two children. They bring the running total of Adams County cases since March 18 to 293.

No new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the other South Heartland counties over the last three days. Running totals for those counties include 27 in Clay, six in Webster and one in Nuckolls. The districtwide total stands at 327.

Of all cases reported among South Heartland district residents to date, at least 299 have recovered. The districtwide death toll stands at 11.

In Monday’s news release, Michele Bever, South Heartland health department executive director, announced that for the week of June 21-27, the number of new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the district as a percentage of the total number of tests administered was 2.7%.

That percentage was down slightly from 3.3% for the previous week. In the weeks prior to that, the “positivity rate” had dropped from around 2% to as low as 0.7%.

“Our indicators are continuing to look good right now and these trends are the direct result of the restrictive measures that have been in place,” Bever said. “But, to keep these trends going in the right direction, we need to continue to control the spread of the virus in our communities and worksites. This means continuing to practice physical distancing, wearing masks to protect others, and practicing prevention.”

The health department, headquartered in Hastings, continues to conduct contact tracing investigations in connection with every new confirmed positive case of the viral infection among residents of the four-county area.

“Cases are always directed to isolate themselves and may be released from isolation only after they have completed 10 days since the beginning of their symptoms AND 3 days fever free AND symptoms improved,” Bever said. “Close contacts are directed to quarantine and self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the date of their exposure.”

Close contacts need to remain in quarantine for the full 14-day period because symptoms could develop at any time throughout the 14 days, Bever said.

“Testing is just a point in time,” she said. “If you test negative, it means that you are negative on that day, but it doesn’t clear you of developing symptoms and detectable infection later in the 14 days.”

Bever said that quarantine helps stop the spread of the virus to another set of people.

“The virus can’t spread if it can’t get from one person to another,” she said.

South Heartland District case counts and trends can be found on SHDHD’s dashboard of local COVID-19 case statistics. The dashboard is on the health department website, www.southheartlandhealth.org.

While the number of new cases and positivity rates remain low in south central Nebraska at this time, other areas of the United States — particularly in the South — are seeing alarming increases in their case numbers at this time.

Across Nebraska, a total of 518 new cases were confirmed Saturday through Monday, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported. The statewide tally of cases to date stood at 19,042 as of Monday evening, with 269 fatalities.

As of Monday evening, 42% of all hospital beds, 48% of intensive care beds and 80% of ventilators were available for patients, the state agency reported.

In the Two Rivers Public Health District, which covers seven counties to the west of the Hastings area, seven new cases were reported over the weekend. One of those new cases was in Franklin County, which is part of the Tribune’s coverage area.

To date, the Two Rivers health district has recorded a total of 1,090 positive cases, with nine deaths. Of the 1,090, 1,016 no longer are symptomatic.

For the week of June 18-24, the Public Health Solutions Health District, which covers five counties including Fillmore and Thayer in Tribland, recorded just five new cases total — four in Saline County and one in Gage County. The districtwide running case tally for Public Health Solutions stood at 603 as of June 24.

The Central Health District, which encompasses Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties, has been the hardest hit among health districts including portions of Tribland and among the hardest hit anywhere in the state. To date, the case tally for that district stands at 1,699, with 57 deaths. So far, 1,531 of the patients have recovered.

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that the Central Health District counties, plus Dakota County in northeastern Nebraska, will be moved into Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan effective July 6. Those four counties will be the last in the state to move into Phase 3, which further relaxes restrictions on indoor and outdoor public gatherings and occupancy of restaurants, provided social distancing and sanitation guidelines are followed.

The state Department of Health and Human Services provides daily updates to Nebraska’s COVID-19 cases on its Data Dashboard at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.

Mary Lanning
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