South Heartland District Health Department

The South Heartland Health District will remain at a 2.7 reading on its COVID-19 “risk dial” for a second consecutive week, the district health department reported Wednesday evening.

The reading is in the mid-to-high portion of the dial’s orange zone, signifying “elevated” risk related to further spread of the novel coronavirus in the four-county district.

Several factors related to current conditions are used to establish the risk dial reading, which is updated each Wednesday. Zones on the dial include green (low risk), yellow (moderate), orange (elevated) and red (severe).

For the week of Oct. 25-31, the district saw a coronavirus test positivity rate of 11.6%. The rate is the number of positive virus test results the health department receives in a given week as a percentage of all tests administered during that week. Positivity rates have exceeded 15% in recent weeks.

A positivity rate of 15% or higher indicates severe community spread of the virus, whereas a rate below 5% signifies low spread, according to the health department.

South Heartland’s average number of daily new cases for the 14 days ending Oct. 31 was 63.1 per 100,000, said Michele Bever, health department executive director.

“If we had low community spread, we would expect an average of eight or fewer new cases per day per 100,000,” Bever said.

As of Wednesday, 11 school systems in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties were seeing student and staff absences related to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19 — the disease caused by infection with the virus, which can cause no symptoms at all in some patients but serious and even deadly illness in others.

Districtwide, nearly 200 students and staff were absent from the 11 school systems, including 27 students and 11 staff members in isolation after testing positive for the virus. Others who were absent may have been in quarantine due to exposure.

“The schools continue to do a good job assuring COVID prevention practices are in place to protect their staff and the students,” Bever said. “We encourage school families and community members to follow their example.”

In addition, nine long-term care facilities in the South Heartland district have seen staff, residents, or both test positive for the virus in the past two weeks.

As of Wednesday, 10 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals within the South Heartland district. (The three hospitals are in Hastings, Superior and Red Cloud.) Two of the patients were requiring critical care, Bever said.

Since March, a total of 75 residents of the health district have spent time in a hospital in connection with COVID-19.

“On Sept. 15, the cumulative hospitalizations totaled 31 for the previous six months,” Bever said. “The rate of hospitalization has been accelerating, with 44 South Heartland residents needing hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the past month and a half.”

Bever is reminding residents to maintain 6 feet of distance from people they don’t live with, to mask up to reduce risk of close contact exposures, and to wash their hands frequently.

“If hospitals are caring for patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19 or influenza, they have less capacity to care for any of us or our loved ones when we have other critical needs, like heart attacks,” she said. “We can all help reduce this burden by avoiding the three Cs: avoid Crowded places, avoid Close Contact and avoid Confined spaces.”

For more South Heartland COVID-19 statistics visit the health department’s website,


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