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South Heartland District Health Department

The running tally of COVID-19 cases to date in the four-county South Heartland Health District ticked up by six from Wednesday through Friday, according to online statistics maintained by the district health department.

Over the three-day span, the cumulative case count grew by five in Clay County and by one in Nuckolls County. The county tallies for Adams and Webster counties didn’t change.

Laboratory confirmation of two of the new Clay County cases was announced in a news release from South Heartland on Thursday evening. Those two cases involve a man in his 50s and a woman in her 20s, respectively.

The other three new Clay County cases, plus one new case in Nuckolls County, are reflected in the statistics posted to the South Heartland website’s COVID-19 “dashboard” as of Friday evening.

The dashboard is updated daily but doesn’t include details like the gender or age of new patients. South Heartland, like other district health departments in Nebraska, is making a transition to less frequent news releases updating COVID-19 conditions.

With the six newly confirmed cases for Wednesday through Friday, the overall tally of cases confirmed since March 18 in the South Heartland district has increased to 371 — 318 in Adams County, 38 in Clay County, 10 in Webster County and five in Nuckolls County.

Since July 9, Clay County has recorded a total of 10 new cases. In that same span, Adams County has recorded seven new cases, Nuckolls County two, and Webster County zero.

Of the 371 total cases the health district has seen, 333 have resolved with the patients recovering. Eleven patients — all Adams County residents — have lost their lives.

Since March, a total of 21 district residents have spent time in the hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19. That number hasn’t increased since May 29.

The South Heartland website includes a “risk dial” that remains under development. Michele Bever, health department executive director, said in Thursday’s news release that officials are continuing to add to and fine-tune the indicators the dial will take into account.

In its current state of development, the dial shows South Heartland in the “moderate” risk range related to COVID-19 conditions, with the needle moving up slightly. The four risk ranges, in ascending order of severity, are “low,” “moderate,” “elevated” and “severe.”

Bever said the upward movement of the needle in part reflects increases in “positivity” rates over the past three weeks, plus the confirmation of new cases in all four South Heartland counties.

The weekly positivity rate is the number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the health district as a percentage of the total number of tests that were administered.

“In addition, social distancing and use of cloth face coverings in public are not widespread practices and we’ve had some large gatherings with exposures in our district,” Bever said. “All of these contribute to a rise in the overall risk level.”

Key preventive steps that can reduce the spread of COVID-19 include staying at home if individuals have any symptoms associated with the viral infection, even if the symptoms are mild; keeping 6 feet of distance from others; wearing a face covering to prevent the spread of germs to others, especially when physical distancing is difficult to maintain; washing hands frequently with soap and water; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

As of Friday evening, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has recorded a running totally of 22,361 cases of COVID-19 to date. The death toll stands at 301.

A total of 1,584 new cases have been confirmed statewide since July 10, and 15 patients have died, the state agency reported. A total of 16,665 patients across the state have been placed in the “recovered” category since July 10.

As of Friday, 37% of the state’s hospital beds, 39% of its intensive care beds and 79% of its ventilators were available for patients, NDHHS reported.

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