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South Heartland tallies of new COVID-19 cases continue downward trend

One hundred seventeen residents of the South Heartland Health District have been confirmed positive for the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in the past week.

The tally of new cases was gleaned from daily COVID-19 statistical updates posted to the data dashboard on the South Heartland webpage, www.southheartlandhealth.org.

The South Heartland health district encompasses Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties. Health department offices are in Hastings.

While the health department’s Monday night news release didn’t include the district’s test positivity rate for Dec. 20-26, Michele Bever, the department’s executive director, commented on the continuing downward trend in numbers of new cases being recorded.

“There is good news to share — the downward trend in new daily cases is continuing,” Bever said. “We averaged about 17 new positive labs per day these past seven days, which is a welcome change from the peak of 83 positive labs reported to SHDHD on Dec. 1.”

The new confirmed cases for the seven-day period, which included the Christmas holiday, included 81 in Adams County, 19 in Clay County, 13 in Nuckolls County and four in Webster County. By county, the new cumulative totals are: 2,402 cases in Adams, 583 in Clay, 387 in Nuckolls, and 298 in Webster.

The new cases bring to 3,670 the running total of positive cases reported among South Heartland residents since March 18. Through Monday evening, 3,419 of those cases had been classified as recovered.

A total of 149 residents have spent time in a hospital for treatment of the viral infection. The district’s death toll related to COVID-19 stands at 46.

South Heartland normally reports tallies of new cases twice each week, on Monday and Thursday nights. The department didn’t issue a report last Thursday, which was Christmas Eve.

In the neighboring Two Rivers Public Health District, which borders South Heartland on the west, a total of 15 Franklin County residents, eight Kearney County residents and six Harlan County residents tested positive for the viral infection Dec. 21 through Sunday.

The Two Rivers district also includes Buffalo, Phelps, Gosper and Dawson counties outside the Hastings Tribune’s coverage area.

Back in the South Heartland district, Bever reported at least 250 more individuals received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in the past week at Brodstone Memorial Hospital in Superior and Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings.

The Clay County Health Department and Webster County Community Hospital in Red Cloud also are administering vaccine to health care workers and emergency medical services personnel.

The first COVID-19 vaccine — from Pfizer — arrived in the health district on Dec. 15. Bever said the first several weeks of allotted vaccine are being directed to health care workers, according to Nebraska’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.

“The Phase 1A vaccination is for health care personnel who provide direct patient care and those who may be exposed to infectious materials,” Bever said. “This includes staff at hospitals, home health care, pharmacies, EMS, primary care, dental, optometrists, outpatient providers, mental health providers, and public health. It also includes long-term care facility residents and staff.”

The long-term care residents and workers will be vaccinated through a program that involves commercial pharmacies.

According to Nebraska’s plan, Phase 1A will continue until the district has received enough doses to vaccinate the 1A priority groups.

Bever said the vaccine allocations are determined by state-level planners, but weather and other factors also can influence when the district receive vaccines shipments.

“We were expecting additional vaccine to our district early this week, but the weather is delaying shipments,” she said.

After Phase 1A priority groups have been offered vaccine the health district would move to Phase 1B, which focuses on individuals 75 years of age or older and essential critical infrastructure workforce. This group includes first responders, education and school services personnel, people working in the utilities and transportation sectors, and food processing/agricultural workers in close contact.

The next priority groups, in Phase 1C, will include persons age 65-74 years and medically vulnerable individuals.

In Monday’s news release, Bever encouraged South Heartland constituents to keep up their efforts to thwart further spread of the virus person-to-person.

Such efforts include wearing face coverings and social distancing.

“Even with the numbers trending down, we will need to remain vigilant on COVID prevention over the holidays and beyond,” she said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends continuing to use all the tools we have, including the vaccine, to help stop the pandemic.”

Framing business helps to preserve memories
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Marcy Maley does more than just frame items, she’s also working to preserve memories.

Maley, owner of The Frame Lady, has been in the custom framing business in Hastings for 30 years.

“I just feel very fortunate to be a part of a community that is so supportive of our local businesses,” said Maley, who grew up in Hastings.

She got her start in 1990 at the Ben Franklin store in downtown Hastings. She managed the frame shop there for 14 years.

After that, Maley reopened the frame shop at Allen’s department store. She was there for two years.

From there, she moved on and worked for former Graham Gallery and Framing owner Angela Graham.

In July 2011, Maley bought the frame shop from Graham and has operated her business under the name The Frame Lady.

Now in her own shop, she works directly with customers to help make their projects special.

“I like to kind of get to know the project, who it belongs to, the history behind it and what it means to that customer,” Maley said.

When deciding on a frame, she tries to color-coordinate with where the picture is going to hang.

“I try to find out where they’re going to hang this and what the wall colors are,” Maley said. “When we start picking out frames and mattes to coordinate, it kind of allows it to be part of the photograph and artwork itself.”

She said that she takes the time to work closely with her customers because she realizes how important the memories are behind what’s in the picture.

In other words, the frame is just one part of the process of trying to satisfy a customer, she said.

“It took me some years in the business to realize that it’s not just about a great, quality, awesome-looking frame on the wall — it’s about preserving memories,” Maley said.

She knows that some of the projects she works on could be a memento that the customer brought back from a trip or it could be a family heirloom.

In some cases, a customer is trying to find a gift for someone they care about, or it’s something that is a special item from a loved one who is no longer with them.

Over the years, she has heard a lot of stories and learned some of the history about the people of Hastings.

“I have come to find out that almost every project that comes in has a history,” Maley said.

More COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline as US effort ramps up
A huge U.S. study of another possible COVID-19 vaccine is getting underway as states continue to roll out scarce supplies of the first shots cleared for emergency use
  • Updated

A huge U.S. study of another COVID-19 vaccine candidate got underway Monday as states continue to roll out scarce supplies of the first shots to a nation anxiously awaiting relief from the catastrophic outbreak.

Public health experts say more options in addition to the two vaccines now being dispensed — one made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, the other by Moderna — are critical to amassing enough shots for the country and the world.

The candidate made by Novavax Inc. is the fifth to reach final-stage testing in the United States. Some 30,000 volunteers are needed to prove if the shot — a different kind than its Pfizer and Moderna competitors — really works and is safe.

“If you want to have enough vaccine to vaccinate all the people in the U.S. who you’d like to vaccinate — up to 85% or more of the population — you’re going to need more than two companies,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press on Monday.

The coronavirus is blamed for about 1.8 million deaths worldwide, including more than 330,000 in the U.S. This has been the deadliest month of the outbreak in the U.S. yet, with about 65,000 deaths in December so far, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The nation has repeatedly recorded more than 3,000 dead per day over the past few weeks.

And the U.S. could be facing a terrible winter: Despite warnings to stay home and avoid others over Christmastime, nearly 1.3 million people went through the nation’s airports on Sunday, the highest one-day total since the crisis took hold in the U.S. nine months ago.

The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed expects to have shipped 20 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to states by the beginning of January, fewer than originally estimated to the frustration of states and health officials trying to schedule the shots.

There is no real-time tracking of how quickly people are getting the first of the two required doses. As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reports of more than 2.1 million vaccinations out of 11.4 million doses shipped — but the agency knows that count is outdated. It can take days for reports from vaccine providers to trickle in and get added to the site.

“Just because a vaccine arrives doesn’t mean we can put an on-the-spot clinic up and running,” said Jenny Barta, a public health official in Carlton County, Minnesota.

But Tuesday, her agency aims to vaccinate 100 people in a drive-thru clinic for emergency medical workers that Barta hopes could become a model for larger attempts at mass vaccination. Nurses will wheel vaccine to cars lined up in a county-owned snowplow garage. Once the drivers get their shots, they will wait in parking spaces to be sure they don’t have an allergic reaction before heading home.

“Vaccinating one individual at a time is how we’re going to work our way out of this pandemic,” she said.

Yet another worry hanging over the vaccine scramble: Will shots block a new variant of the coronavirus that emerged in Britain and might spread more easily? Fauci said that data from Britain indicates the vaccines still will protect against the virus but that National Institutes of Health researchers will be “looking at it very intensively” to be sure.

A look at the frontrunners in the global vaccine race:


The U.S. based its emergency rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and a similar one made by Moderna and the NIH on studies suggesting they are both roughly 95% effective. Europe over the weekend began its first vaccinations with the Pfizer shot, and on Jan. 6 will decide whether to add Moderna’s.

These shots are made with a brand-new technology that injects a piece of genetic code for the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. That messenger RNA, or mRNA, induces the body to produce some harmless spike protein, enough to prime the immune system to react if it later encounters the real virus.

Both vaccines must be kept frozen, the Pfizer shot at ultra-low temperatures that complicate its delivery to poor or rural areas.

Additional companies are working toward their own mRNA candidates, including Germany’s CureVac, which has begun a large study in Europe.


The Novavax candidate is made differently, using what Fauci called a “more tried and true” technology that needs only ordinary refrigeration. The Maryland company grows harmless copies of the coronavirus spike protein in the laboratory and mixes in an immune-boosting chemical.

Novavax already has enrolled 15,000 people in a late-stage study in Britain and 4,000 in South Africa. The newest and largest study, funded by the U.S. government, will recruit volunteers at more than 115 sites in the U.S. and Mexico and target high-risk older adults along with volunteers from Black and Hispanic communities, which have been hit hard by the virus.

“We’ve got to protect our community and our people,” said the Rev. Peter Johnson, 75, a prominent civil rights activist in Dallas who was among the first volunteers.

Two-thirds of participants will receive vaccine and the rest dummy shots, a twist from earlier vaccine studies that gave half their volunteers a placebo. That should help researchers recruit people who wonder whether it’s better to take part in a study or wait their turn for an existing shot, said Dr. Gregory Glenn, research chief at Novavax.

For many people, that would be a long wait: The Pfizer and Moderna shots are slated first for health care workers and nursing home residents, followed by people 75 and older and essential workers.

“If you wanted to hedge your bets, for most people who aren’t in those very high-risk groups, the shortest route to getting the vaccine would be to sign up for a trial,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.


The next big vaccine news may come from Johnson & Johnson, which is aiming for a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

Made in yet another way, it uses a harmless virus – a cold virus called an adenovirus — to carry the spike gene into the body. In mid-December, J&J finished enrolling about 45,000 volunteers in a final-stage study in the U.S. and a half-dozen other countries. Fauci expects early results sometime next month.

In Britain, regulators also are considering clearing a similar vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Tests of the shots in Britain, South Africa and Brazil suggested they are safe and partially protective — about 70%. But questions remain about how well the vaccine works in people over 55 and how to interpret results from a small number of people given a different set of doses.

A U.S. study of the AstraZeneca shots is still recruiting volunteers; Fauci said researchers hope it will provide a more clear answer.

Companies in China and Russia also are producing adenovirus-based vaccines and began administering them before the results of final testing came in. Argentina is expected to soon use the Russian vaccine.


Spike-focused vaccines aren’t the only option. Making vaccines by growing a disease-causing virus and then killing it is a still older approach that gives the body a sneak peek at the germ itself rather than just that single spike protein.

China has three such “inactivated” COVID-19 vaccines in final testing in several countries and has allowed emergency use in some people ahead of results. An Indian company is testing its own inactivated candidate.

Year in Review: April, May and June


  • Demand was high for the federally funded “Grab and Go” meals program Hastings Public Schools established in March for anyone 18 and younger in response to in-person classes being canceled.
  • The South Heartland District Health Department was implementing directed health measures necessary to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
  • Kevin Asher and Lance Creech, boys basketball coaches at St. Cecilia and Hastings High School, each announced they would be leaving their respective programs.
  • Dealing with the threat of COVID-19, local alcohol purveyors quickly changed their business model, offering new services like delivery and off-sale purchases.
  • As part of its “We Got This” initiative, Pacha Soap of Hastings provided organizations on the front line fighting COVID-19 with hand sanitizer made with labor donated by Bristol Station residents.
  • Local citizens donated 1,500 face masks and 60 pairs of shoe coverings to Mary Lanning Healthcare. The personal protective equipment was made using materials provided by an anonymous donor.
  • A small, anonymous group of sidewalk chalk artists hit the streets leaving behind their signature calling card: A simple, beautiful message and the gift of cheer.
  • Members of the Adam
  • s County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0-2 to approve purchasing 11 acres on the southwest edge of Hastings as the possible site of a new county justice center. Supervisors Chuck Neumann and Glenn Larsen abstained.
  • Hastings Public Library was part of an initiative organized by Tri-Cities members of the Amateur Radio Association of Nebraska to produce personal protective equipment. The library’s 3-D printer was used to make headband-like face shield frames.
  • Red Cloud High School was the first Tribland High School to conduct a commencement ceremony, honoring 2020 graduates in an outdoor event after in-person classes were halted in March.
  • Mary Lanning Healthcare employees lined a driveway outside the north hospital entrance to bid farewell to Felipe Chavez-Ramirez, 54, of Durango, Colorado, who was the first critical patient admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Chavez-Ramirez was released after spending 22 days at Mary Lanning including 16 days on a ventilator.
  • Ruth Raun and Nathaniel Story were surprised at their homes after winning the 2020 Hastings Public Schools Educator of the Year and Young Educator of the Year awards, respectively.
  • Members of the Hastings Planning Commission were impressed with and recommended approval of a preliminary development plan for dentist Sean Daly to build a new office east of Lake Hastings, near the intersection of North Shore Drive and Osborne Drive West.
  • Members of the Hastings Board of Education approved a $148,316 federal 21st Century Grant for an after-school program at Lincoln Elementary provided by the Hastings Family YMCA.
  • Members of the Hastings Sunrise Rotary Club gathered with school administrators, faculty and students at Longfellow Elementary to finish planting three new trees along Ninth Street on the north side of the building.


  • Demolition work began at the Hastings Regional Center as six buildings were set to be razed.
  • Directed health measures were eased to reduce restrictions on activities including elective medical procedures and religious services.
  • Trumbull native Betsy (Rouse) Thomas, librarian at Kooser Elementary in Lincoln, was featured on the “Today Show” for her creative effort to connect with students in videos online during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • School teachers and staff celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week in the midst of the pandemic by cruising through neighborhoods in car caravans.
  • The Hastings area community donated more than $582,000 for 91 nonprofit organizations during Give Hastings Day. That amount was over $100,000 more than the previous year.
  • Joy Huffaker and Willis Hunt advanced to the general election in the Hastings City Council Ward 3 race, beating out incumbent Councilman Paul Hamelink in the primary.
  • Voters in the Hastings Public Schools District approved renovations at the Morton Elementary building, saying yes to a levy-neutral bond issue question in the primary election.
  • Former Adams County Maintenance Supervisor Harold Johnson defeated incumbent Scott Thomsen in the Republican primary election to represent District 4 on the Adams County Board of Commissioners.
  • Incumbent Glen Larsen defeated challenger Brad Henrie in the District 2 Republican primary election for the Adams County Board of Commissioners.
  • Juniata voters approved a measure to enact a half-cent local sales tax as a way to generate revenue for street repairs and improvements in the primary election.
  • Blue Hill voters in the primary election approved a bond issue to allow progress on construction of a new municipal swimming pool.
  • Hastings College hosted its first virtual graduation ceremony.
  • The Nebraska Air National Guard flew a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker over Mary Lanning Healthcare as a salute to Nebraska’s health care workers.
  • Volunteer trumpeters played taps every hour from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Parkview Cemetery on Memorial Day after the annual service was canceled due to COVID-19.
  • Charges were filed against Wesley Blessing of Lincoln for shooting at officers in rural Clay County, then again in Deweese.

Chris Peterson, a veteran member of the Superior City Council, stepped up to the office of mayor following the resignation of Sonia Schmidt, whose term was to run through 202

  • 2.


  • Five Hastings High students qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association competition, the first time HHS had qualified for the competition in more than two decades.
  • Hastings’ annual Fourth of July concert and fireworks show at Brickyard Park was canceled amid ongoing concerns with the novel coronavirus disease.
  • The Hastings Parks and Recreation Department announced the Aquacourt Water Park would remain closed for the summer with the need for social distancing a major factor in the decision.
  • The Minden Public Swimming Pool reopened with additional safety precautions.
  • Around 300 people gathered at the field north of the Masonic Center to support the Black Lives Matter
  • movement, which protests racial inequality in the nation’s prisons and policing issues, including excessive use of force and racial profiling.
  • Jade Ovendale was hired as the new head women’s soccer coach for Hastings College.
  • The Roseland Community Club set up a virtual trophy case as it moved the town’s historical trophies and awards in preparation of a new community center.
  • The Hastings Planning Commission recommended declaring an area in southwest Hastings as blighted to help spur development.
  • Organizers for the Relay for Life of Adams County hosted a week of virtual events to mark its 25th anniversary after the in-person event was canceled amid COVID-19.
  • The Rockin’ G Arena Open Horse Show in Guide Rock celebrated its 20th anniversary.
  • The Hastings campus of Joseph’s College of Cosmetology closed, ending a beauty school presence that dated back to the 1930s.