Michele Bever

Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, speaks during a news conference Feb. 27 about area novel coronavirus planning and prevention. Bever announced April 18 that a woman in her 80s was the first death related to COVID-19 in Adams County.

The pace of recording new cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, continued to increase alarmingly over the weekend in the South Heartland Health District.

A total of 101 new laboratory-confirmed positive cases were recorded Friday through Monday, the district health department reported Monday night in a news release. That total includes 32 new cases on Friday, 25 on Saturday, nine on Sunday and 35 on Monday, according to statistics posted on the department’s website, www.southheartlandhealth.org.

Prior to Friday, the single-day record for confirmation of new cases in the district was Oct. 5, when 29 positives were recorded. The record prior to that was 25, recorded on May 1.

Michele Bever, health department executive director, said that unless the people of the South Heartland district step up individually and do their part in thwarting the spread of the virus, additional illnesses and community disruptions related to COVID-19 across the region will be inevitable.

“I am very concerned with these trends and discouraged that not enough of our residents are wearing masks and keeping distanced from others,” Bever said. “The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 takes advantage of our social interactions — this is how it spreads. With community spread at these levels, we will continue to have cases affecting our schools, long-term care facilities, and worksites where masks, physical distancing and other prevention practices are rigorously followed. If we want to keep our schools open and protect older adults and others who are more vulnerable, we need to block this virus from spreading person to person everywhere in our communities.”

In another key measure of the virus’ spread, the four-county health department’s test positivity rate also jumped to 14.9% for Oct. 4-10, the most recent full-week reporting period. That number compares to 9.6% for Sept. 27-Oct. 4 and 15.0% for Sept. 20-26.

The South Heartland district encompasses Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties. Positivity for the week, county by county, was 13.1% in Adams, 9.3% in Clay, 19.2% in Nuckolls and 29.6% in Webster.

As of this week, the health district’s most recent test positivity percentages have been revised to represent the total number of new positive cases reported among district residents in a given week divided by the total number of test specimens collected in that same period.

Previously, positivity was being calculated as the total number of new positive cases divided by the total number of test results received, not specimens collected.

“Lower positivity means less community spread,” Bever said. “Our target is low single digits, below 5%.”

Altogether, a total of 151 new positive cases were recorded across the South Heartland district for Oct. 4-10.

“This is the ninth straight week that the case numbers have increased — a net increase of 86.4% last week compared to the week before,” Bever said.

A total of five district residents were admitted to hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 during that one-week span. One additional resident was admitted to a hospital on Sunday.

Since March 18, a running total of 939 South Heartland district residents have been confirmed positive for infection with the novel coronavirus, and a total of 14 South Heartland district residents have died of the resulting disease, COVID-19. All 14 victims lived in Adams County.

Bever said COVID-19 can be a severe disease and urged residents to take it seriously.

“Please take steps to protect others and yourselves, everywhere you go, in everything you do,” she said.

In the neighboring Two Rivers Public Health District, which encompasses seven counties to the west of the Hastings area, Kearney County recorded 30 new cases Friday through Sunday.

Elsewhere in the Tribland portion of the Two Rivers district, Franklin County recorded seven new cases for that three-day period, and Harlan County recorded one.

Mary Lanning

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