Good news about the overall positivity rate for COVID-19 in the South Heartland Health District last week was offset by increasing case numbers and concern for lack of compliance with recommended safety practices, leaving the district’s risk level for further spread of the disease unchanged.
In a news release Tuesday evening, Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, announced that the risk dial launched in recent times will stay at 1.9 for the second consecutive week.
“The needle on the risk dial remained at 1.9 this week, which keeps our district at the top of the ‘moderate’ risk level,” Bever said. “Some factors that contribute to the risk level have improved, and others have worsened. Overall, the risk for the entire health district is essentially the same as last week.”
The risk dial stood at 1.7 two weeks ago. It is updated once a week.
The South Heartland district encompasses Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties. The district’s positivity rate is its number of newly confirmed positive cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, for a given week as a percentage of the total number of tests administered.
The week before last, the district saw its positivity rate shoot up from 3.9% to 7.5%, owing in part to new cases in Clay County correlated to a gathering in early July. Clay County saw its positivity rate increase again last week, related at least in part to another cluster spread situation involving gatherings in three Tribland counties.
Overall, however, the district’s positivity rate dropped for last week, and Adams County — which accounts for the largest share of the district’s population and total running case count — has seen its positivity rate drop for three consecutive weeks.
Bever said that the weekly districtwide positivity rate had decreased to 5.1% from 7.5% the week prior, the intensive care hospital bed availability was improved, and the average time from symptom onset to isolation was shorter for the cases reported last week.
However, the number of new cases reported in the district for the week increased by a net 42% from the week previous and COVID-19 testing availability was reduced.
“We also consider compliance with the directed health measures — which was a concern this past week due to large gatherings that had not submitted the required safety plans — as well as gatherings where physical distancing was not followed,” Bever said. “There were some positives around mask use, with a few stores putting mask policies in place and some graduation ceremonies where cloth face coverings were required or encouraged, but mask use in general is not widespread.”
The levels of risk for COVID-19 spread as portrayed on the risk dial — low (green), moderate (yellow), elevated (orange) and severe (red) — are determined using a variety of indicators, including overall positivity rate, weekly positivity rate, trend in number of cases, health system capacity, ability to trace contacts, average number of contacts per case, availability of COVID-19 testing, average length of time for people with symptoms to be isolated, and availability of vaccine. (No vaccine is yet available for use in the world.)
The risk level also takes into account factors such as compliance to social distancing requirements and use of face coverings in public settings.
According to South Heartland statistics updated Tuesday evening, just one new case of COVID-19 was confirmed in a district resident on Tuesday, and a total of 29 cases (running total of 405 cases, minus 365 classified as “recovered,” minus 11 fatalities) were active in the district.
A total of 258 new cases were confirmed across Nebraska on Tuesday, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported. The running total of cases confirmed statewide to date now stands at 25,157, with 321 deaths.
South Heartland District case counts and trends can be found on the district’s Data Dashboard of local COVID-19 case statistics. This dashboard, along with updates, guidance, news releases and other COVID-19 information and links can be found on the district website: www.southheartlandhealth.org.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services provides daily updates to statewide coronavirus COVID-19 cases on its Data Dashboard at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.