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South Heartland sees larger vaccine allotment for this week

Up to 800 South Heartland Health District residents will be able to receive their first doses of Moderna vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease this week based on the expected vaccine allotment.

That was the word Monday evening from the South Heartland health department in its most recent update on COVID-19 vaccination progress.

South Heartland includes Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties. The district health department recently began work on Phase 1B of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, which calls for injections for the general population of senior citizens age 65 and up, as well as other adults with high-risk underlying health conditions and certain categories of essential workers.

Department officials are expecting to receive 800 “first doses” of Moderna vaccine this week. Executive Director Michele Bever said that allotment is 200 doses more than for the prior week.

“These doses will be allocated out to our vaccine providers in each county,” Bever said. “Our focus again this week will be individuals age 65-plus and continuing to use the reverse age approach, starting with the oldest and expanding downward.

“Approximately 90% of the doses will go to elderly, and about 10% will be administered to any remaining health workers who were eligible under Phase 1A, as well as some of the prioritized essential workers in Phase 1B.”

In addition, Bever said, about 340 second doses of Moderna vaccine will be administered in the district this week.

Both COVID-19 vaccine products available so far — commonly known as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively — require a second dose as a booster. The specified interval between doses for the Pfizer product is 21 days; the interval for Moderna is 28 days.

Individuals age 65 and up who wish to be vaccinated may register on the state of Nebraska’s vaccine registration system, called VRAS. The sign-up tool can be accessed through the South Heartland website, www.southheartlandhealth.org.

“Just click on the red ribbon at the top of the homepage to get to the vaccine information page, then click on the picture of the vaccine to start the registration process.” Bever said.

Those needing assistance with registration are encouraged to ask a family member or friend for help or to contact the Nebraska State Vaccine hotline, 833-998-2275. Individuals 60 and over can contact the Midland Area Agency on Aging for assistance with vaccine registration at 402-463-4565 ext. 499.

Bever said registered individuals will be notified when it is their turn to schedule an appointment. Prioritized essential workers can expect to be notified through their worksites when vaccine is available for them.

The first Phase 1B vaccinations in the South Heartland district have been administered over the last week or so. Bever has cautioned the public that working through Phase 1B will be a lengthy process.

“It will take time to get to all of the people in each priority group who want the vaccine,” she said. “Everyone in each priority group can be vaccinated as soon as there are enough vaccines available in our district.”

In the meantime, Bever encourages residents to continue avoiding crowds, close contact with non-household members, and confined spaces with poor ventilation, all in the name of thwarting the spread of the virus.

“We will need to use ALL the tools we have, including the vaccine, to help stop the pandemic,” she said.

In related news, Bever reported that 30 new cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, were recorded in the South Heartland district Saturday through Monday. The new cases included 17 in Adams County, six in Clay County, seven in Nuckolls County and zero in Webster County.

The newly confirmed cases bring to 4,308 the cumulative total number of cases confirmed among district residents since the first was reported on March 18, 2020.

To date, 3,985 of the 4,308 cases have been classified as “recovered.” The district’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 52.

For the week of Jan. 24-30, the district’s test positivity rate increased to 10.2% from 8.9% for the previous week. The test positivity rate is the percentage of COVID-19 tests administered in a given week that come back from the laboratory with a positive result.

Positivity rates exceeding 15% correlate to widespread community transmission of the virus, whereas rates below 5% correlate to low spread.

Obviously, the number of tests administered is key to the calculation. Bever said testing numbers were down last week, likely due to the snowy weather.

Eight hundred fifty tests were administered for the week, compared to 1,005 the prior week, she said.

'A long two days': Major storm pummels Northeast with snow
A sprawling winter storm is walloping the Eastern U.S., shutting down coronavirus vaccination sites, closing schools and halting transit
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NEW YORK — A sprawling, lumbering winter storm walloped the Eastern U.S. on Monday, shutting down coronavirus vaccination sites, closing schools and halting transit as snow piled up from the Appalachians to New England, with the heaviest accumulations yet to come in some places.

With flakes falling since Sunday evening, the National Weather Service said more than 13 inches of snow had fallen in Manhattan’s Central Park as of 1 p.m., and as much as 16 inches was reported in northern New Jersey. Although the heaviest parts of the storm had moved through the metropolitan area by Monday evening, lighter snow showers were expected to continue virtually all day Tuesday, forecaster James Tomasini said.

“We’re looking at a long two days here,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a virtual news conference.

Parts of New England also braced for a foot or more by the time the snow finally tapers off in the northernmost states by Wednesday evening, the weather service said. At least three deaths that appeared to be related to the storm were reported, in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, authorities said a 67-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease who reportedly wandered away from her home was found dead of hypothermia on an Allentown street Monday morning. About 60 miles north in Plains Township, a shooting after an argument over snow removal killed a married couple, and the suspect was later found dead at his nearby home of a wound believed to have been self-inflicted, officials in Luzerne County said.

A preliminary investigation indicates the people involved had a long-running conflict, but “this morning, the dispute was exacerbated by a disagreement over snow disposal,” District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said.

In Virginia, four firefighters were taken to hospitals with injuries that were not life threatening after their firetruck overturned Sunday on snow-covered roads in Henrico County, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Across the Northeast, many coronavirus vaccination sites closed Monday.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said the storm forced the postponement of about 10,000 shots and delayed the state’s weekly resupply of vaccine, now expected Tuesday. He urged providers that called off vaccination appointments to extend their hours if needed to reschedule the shots by the end of the week.

The storm disrupted the second phase of Massachusetts’ vaccine rollout as a Boston site that was supposed to open Monday for residents ages 75 and over did not; some other mass vaccination sites were open. The state was expected to get 12 to 18 inches of heavy, wet snow and wind gusts of up to 55 mph along the coast, according to Gov. Charlie Baker.

“We’re used to dealing with snow this time of year, but it’s important for folks to take this one seriously due to the heavy snowfall, the high winds, and the speed with which this snow is going to fall when it starts to come down,” Baker said at a press conference.

In a school year when many students are already learning from home, in-person classes were canceled in many places.

“I’d like to think there is still some virtual learning going on, with a little bit of time for sledding along the way,” Lamont quipped.

New York City mom Alyssa Burnham was happy for her son to have “a break from his regular routine.”

Now that snow days have blurred into remote-learning days, “it’s fun for him to just get out here and be a kid,” she said as he played in the snow.

The New York City area had scattered power outages by early evening, affecting about 3,200 homes and businesses in the city and its New York suburbs, 4,000 in New Jersey and 1,200 in Connecticut.

Hundreds of flights and many trains and were canceled, and aboveground New York City subway service stopped at 2 p.m.

In recent days, a storm system blanketed parts of the Midwest, with some areas getting the most snow in several years. Ohio and Washington, D.C., also got snow.

The snow and cold in Washington led President Joe Biden to postpone a visit to the State Department that had been planned for Monday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration had been in contact with governors states affected by the weather.

Council approves contract for digester upgrade
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The primary digester at the city of Hastings’ Pollution Control Facility soon will get a seven-figure upgrade.

Members of the Hastings City Council voted 7-0 at their regular meeting Monday to approve an agreement with BRB Contractors Inc. of Topeka, Kansas, for primary digester improvements in the amount of $1.38 million.

Councilman Ted Schroeder was absent.

Lee Vrooman, city director of engineering, said the primary digester is an essential part of Hastings Utilities’ Pollution Control Facility, also known as the wastewater treatment plant.

The utility department opened bids for the project on Jan. 7. The bid from BRB was the lowest of two bids and under the engineer’s estimate of $1.5 million.

Vrooman said BRB performed similar work on the secondary digester in 2016.

“So they are familiar with the work,” he said. “The digester is 40 years old, and the mixing equipment is failing and the cover does need rehabilitated. This is an essential part of the process for digesting solids in the plant.”

Monday’s council meeting, which lasted 12 minutes, was the first in-person for new council members Joy Huffaker and Shawn Hartmann. They, along with re-elected incumbent council members Butch Eley and Jeniffer Beahm, as well as Mayor Corey Stutte, were sworn in during a virtual meeting on Dec. 14, 2020.

On Monday, council members unanimously approved ratifying all actions taken by the City Council at its teleconference/videoconference meetings on Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 11.

During council communications, Eley expressed thanks for a recent signage upgrade in the city.

“Whoever thought of the idea of the red and white strips for the posts at four-way stops needs a good, ‘Atta boy.’ I think that’s great,” he said.

Eley and Stutte both congratulated Troy Vorderstrasse for his promotion to assistant fire chief. Vorderstrasse, who previously had served as fire prevention officer, is scheduled to be sworn into his new position during a ceremony on Thursday.

Stutte also thanked all those who sent well wishes while he was in the Mary Lanning Healthcare intensive care unit and while he was recovering at home following a medical incident at his home.

The situation included a fall, a seizure, atrial fibrillation and bleeding on the brain, Stutte reported. He attributed the incident to long-term effects of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

The council held an executive session following the regular agenda to discuss personnel items.

In other business, the council:

  • Unanimously approved the application of CF Altitude LLC doing business as “Alta No. 6216” for a Class D Liquor License at 500 S. Burlington Ave.
  • Unanimously approved the manager application of Daniel J. Stroup in connection with the Class “D” Liquor License of CF Altitude LLC doing business as “Alta No. 6216” at 500 S. Burlington Ave.

Nebraska administered nearly 47,000 vaccine doses last week
Nearly 47,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered across Nebraska last week as officials continue to speed up distribution of the vaccines
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LINCOLN — Nearly 47,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered across Nebraska last week as officials continue to speed up distribution of the vaccines.

State officials said 46,806 doses of the vaccine were administered last week, up from from 31,036 doses administered the previous week.

The state estimates that 3.25% of Nebraska’s population has now received both required doses of the vaccine. And Nebraska said it has administered 184,045 of the 300,400 doses that have been allocated to it. Most of those vaccines have gone to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, but in some parts of the state people 65 and older and other groups are being vaccinated.

In central Nebraska, a group of teachers were vaccinated in Grand Island last week because the Central District Health Department had about 400 doses of the vaccine left over after holding two drive-through clinics for older residents, and the medicine had to be used quickly because it had already been thawed.

Teachers aren’t scheduled to get the vaccine until after older Nebraskans, but they were available quickly to use up the thawed doses.

“It’s an issue of supply and demand. We need to figure out how to get people there when we have doses,” said Teresa Anderson, director of the Grand Island-based health department. “It’s strictly because we had to move vaccine. So we did it.”