The South Heartland Health District continued to see improvements in COVID-19 conditions last week, the district heath department said in its weekly Tuesday night update.
The health department logged 130 new laboratory-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, among district residents for the week ending Oct. 9, plus another 42 for Sunday through Tuesday of this week. Last week’s number was down from 151, 166 and 231, respectively, in the preceding weeks.
The health district covers Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties.
The running total number of confirmed cases among district residents since March 2020 now stands at 6,173, with county totals of 4,030 in Adams, 959 in Clay, 674 in Nuckolls and 510 in Webster.
The health department also received more sequencing results from previously reported cases, all of which were identified as the delta variant lineage.
Michele Bever, health department executive director, reported 10% fewer people sought testing last week than in the week before that.
The number of positive lab reports also was lower — down 14% compared to the previous week.
Bever said South Heartland’s overall test positivity rate dropped to 8.9% this week. That’s within the range of “substantial community transmission.” But community positivity, which excludes test results from regular surveillance testing in long-term care facilities, remained at 18.4% — in the “high transmission” range.
The test positivity rate, or “positivity” for short, is the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in a given week, divided by the total number of tests administered in that same time period.
Bever also reported a reduction in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days. That metric dropped to 210 cases per 100,000, but still indicates a high level of community transmission.
“We are glad to see these reduced case rates, but not ready to state this is a clear downward trend,” she said. “South Heartland will continue the local COVID-19 Advisory for our counties while community transmission levels remain high.”
News on the hospital capacity front is favorable, as well. As of Tuesday, just four COVID-19 in-patients (12% of all in-patients) were hospitalized in the health district, just one ventilator was in use, and 85.7% of staffed intensive care unit beds were available in the hospitals.
Bever said the health department is receiving COVID-19 positive lab results on individuals associated with various events and gatherings. Also in the past two weeks, six skilled nursing or assisted-living facilities in the health district have had staff or residents or both test positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, several child care services have been experiencing COVID-19 cases and exposures.
All in all, Bever said, while much of the COVID-19 news this week is encouraging, transmission continues at an elevated level in the health district and precautions remain in order.
“People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days to reduce spread of the illness,” she said. “For people who are exposed to someone with COVID-19, we continue to recommend quarantine.
“The take-away is that the pandemic is not over and we need to continue practicing prevention. The more layers you can use, the better. One of these layers is to stay home when you have any symptoms.”
Bever said people looking for information on what to do when they test positive for COVID-19 can find step-by-step instructions on the South Heartland website: southheartlandhealth.org" target="_blank">southheartlandhealth.org.
“The best protection against COVID-19 is vaccination. The vaccines are very safe and highly effective in reducing risk of severe COVID illness that leads to hospitalization,” Bever said. “It’s not too late to get your first and second shots, and we are encouraging people to take advantage of the widely available, no-cost vaccine to start or complete their vaccination steps and protect against COVID-19.”
South Heartland’s vaccine webpage, southheartlandhealth.org, provides a list of locations offering vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. The list of vaccine providers is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted and, if needed, how to make an appointment at each site.
Bever said many health care providers in the district also are offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients in their own clinics and residents should consider getting their COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same visit.
South Heartland is offering weekly walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics with Pfizer vaccine on Wednesdays through the month of October. Hours are 5-7 p.m. in the west end of the Allen’s building, 1115 W. Second St. in Hastings.
Families are encouraged to bring their children age 12 and above for vaccination at the clinics. Minor children must be accompanied by parent or guardian. Others are welcome to be vaccinated at these clinics, as well.
Those attending should enter the west door of the building. Masks are required. Participants may register in advance at vaccinate.ne.gov.
Bever encourages residents to contact their personal doctor or the health department if they have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, additional doses for immunocompromised individuals, booster doses, or COVID-19 testing. Contact South Heartland at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.
Bever said people looking for COVID-19 testing may refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org, to find a list of testing sites, types of tests offered, and hours when testing is available.