A Clay County man in his 90s has died of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, the South Heartland District Health Department announced Monday night.
The man had been hospitalized and had underlying health conditions. His confirmation as a positive case of COVID-19 had been reflected in health district statistics previously, but the health department didn’t attribute his death to the disease until it received official notification of the cause as listed on the death certificate.
The man becomes the first Clay County resident and the 17th resident of the four-county health district to succumb to COVID-19. All 16 of the other victims lived in Adams County.
“I am sad to report the death of another South Heartland resident to COVID-19, the first death for Clay County,” said Michele Bever, health department executive director. “We extend our sincere condolences to the family for the loss of their loved one.”
The health department also reported Monday night that another 96 South Heartland residents had tested positive for the presence of the novel coronavirus in their bodies since Friday.
Infection with the virus can cause anything from no symptoms at all to serious and sometimes fatal illness.
The additional cases for Friday through Monday were reported by the district health department on Monday night. They bring to 1,375 the four-county health district’s running tally of positive cases of COVID-19 reported since March 18.
The new cases include 60 in Adams County, 18 in Clay County, and nine each in Nuckolls and Webster counties. The county-by-county case tally since March totals 925 in Adams, 192 in Clay, 131 in Nuckolls and 127 in Webster.
As of Monday, a total of 61 South Heartland residents had spent time in a hospital for treatment of COVID-19.
More than 725 of the district’s 1,375 cases to date have been classified as recovered. The recovery number last was updated on Oct. 16.
For the week of Oct. 18-24, the South Heartland health department received 1,068 laboratory reports for tests conducted during that period. Those results showed a total of 174 new positive cases — placing the district’s test positivity rate for the week at 16.3%.
By county, positivity rates for Oct. 18-24 were 17.4% in Adams, 8% in Clay, 28.9% in Nuckolls and 32.6% in Webster.
The districtwide test positivity rate for the week of Oct. 11-17 was 17.1%. Any rate exceeding 15% indicates extensive spread of the virus in the community.
In Monday’s news release, Bever said the health department’s goal is to see the rates drop below 5%.
She asked all district residents to help thwart the further spread of the virus.
“Avoid the three Cs,” Bever said. “Avoid crowded places, avoid close contact and avoid confined spaces. Protect others and yourselves in everything you do.”
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services now is assisting the South Heartland staff’s contact tracing team in notifying individuals of their test results, advising them on next steps to take and answering questions.
“Sometimes people are hesitant to answer calls from unknown numbers, but we want residents to know that NeDHHS is helping us with contact tracing, so local individuals may be getting calls from numbers they don’t recognize,” Bever said. “If you have been tested for COVID, please answer these calls to determine whether it is someone reaching out with your test results. If someone from South Heartland or NeDHHS should call and leave a message, please return the call as directed in the message.”
Bever said contact tracers never will ask for information such as Social Security, banking or credit card numbers and residents should verify callers before giving out this kind of information over the telephone.
Anyone with questions or concerns should contact the health department. The telephone numbers are 402-462-6211 or 1-877-238-7595.
In the neighboring Two Rivers Public Health District to the west, a total of eight new cases in Franklin County, three new cases in Kearney County and three new cases in Harlan County were recorded Thursday through Sunday. That district also includes Buffalo, Phelps, Gosper and Dawson counties.