The South Heartland District Health Department recorded nine new cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, among district residents during the week of July 11-17, and saw its overall test positivity rate for the week jump from 1.52% to 5.92%.
In addition, the department already has logged four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the week that began Sunday.
The uptick in case activity has pushed the district’s risk dial reading, assessing the danger from further local spread of the virus and its variants, back into the yellow zone after several weeks of the needle being pegged on the line between green and yellow.
The new risk reading, 1.3, is up from 1.0, which was squarely on the line between low risk (green zone) and moderate risk (yellow zone).
The South Heartland district encompasses Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties. Health department offices are in Hastings.
The test positivity rate is the number of new positive cases confirmed by laboratories for the week divided by the total number of tests administered in that same time period.
The positivity rate within the general population climbed from 3.13% to 7.96% for July 11-17. The rate among residents and employees of long-term care facilities remained at zero for the fifth straight week.
Since March 18, 2020, a total of 4,944 South Heartland residents have been confirmed positive for COVID-19. A total of 92 have died of the disease, based on information from official Nebraska death certificates.
The 92nd death is newly confirmed, following receipt of another death certificate for an individual previously recorded as a positive case of COVID-19.
In addition, sequencing has confirmed a second case of COVID-19 in the district (the case itself had been reported previously) is attributable to the B.1.617.2 variant of the virus, otherwise known as the highly transmissible Delta variant.
In her weekly Tuesday night news release updating COVID-19 news and statistics for the health district, Michele Bever, health department executive director, said the 14-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 population increased to 2.1 after being at or below 0.9 since June 4.
“Given the increase in cases, increase in positivity and the recent identification of cases caused by the Delta variant of concern, our overall local risk of COVID-19 has edged up into the moderate (yellow) zone,” she said.
Vaccination numbers continue to inch upward. As of this week, 50% of eligible South Heartland residents (age 12 and up) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 47% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
Thirty-nine percent of all district residents are fully vaccinated, and 41% of all residents have received at least one dose.
Bever said South Heartland compares unfavorably to the United States as a whole in terms of its vaccination track record.
“Our COVID-19 vaccination rates in South Heartland continue to lag behind the national averages,” she said.
According to the New York Times vaccine tracker (July 20), in the U.S. overall, 48.7% of residents are fully vaccinated and 56.1% have received at least one dose. Of those 12 years and older who are eligible to receive the vaccine, 57% are fully vaccinated and 65.7% have received at least one dose.
“And, while an outstanding 81.8% of South Heartland residents age 65+ are fully vaccinated, only 8% of 12- to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated (3% have received a first shot), 16% of 16- to 19-year-olds are fully vaccinated (3% have received a first shot), and 29% of 20- to 34-year-olds are fully vaccinated (3% have received a first shot),” Bever said.
With the Delta variant ascendant nationwide, the need for vaccination here at home is strong, she said.
“With the Delta variant causing surges in cases around the country and with younger individuals getting sick and needing hospitalization, we are encouraging everyone age 12 and older who hasn’t been vaccinated to make an effort to do so now,” Bever said. “The COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe illness caused by the coronavirus variants. If you haven’t been vaccinated, don’t wait. Getting your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine soon means you could be fully vaccinated in time for back-to-school and fall activities.”
South Heartland will offer a walk-in COVID vaccination clinic with Pfizer vaccine July 29 from 5-7 p.m. at the west end of the Allen’s building, 1115 W. Second St., in Hastings.
In preparation for school, Bever encourages families to bring their children age 12 and above (minor children must be accompanied by parent or guardian). Others also are welcome.
Those attending should enter at Allen’s west door. Masks are required. Participants may register in advance at vaccinate.ne.gov.
All three COVID-19 vaccine products – Pfizer BioNTech, J&J Janssen and Moderna — are available in the health district. SHDHD’s vaccine webpage (southheartlandhealth.org) includes a list of locations offering vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site.
The list is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted, and, if needed, how to make an appointment at each site. In addition, many health care providers in the district are offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients.
Bever encourages residents to contact their personal doctor or the health department if they have questions about the vaccine. Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.