The number of new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, for the first six days of last week surged to nearly double the total for all of the previous week in the South Heartland Health District.
In a news release, the district health department announced 265 new positive cases had been confirmed through laboratory testing for Jan. 2 through Friday.
That number compares to 142 cases recorded for all of the previous week, Dec. 26, 2021, through Jan. 1, 2022.
The new cases included five linked through laboratory sequencing to the omicron variant of the virus and seven linked to the delta variant, which had been the dominant strain circulating in the world over the past several months.
Only a small sampling of positive cases of COVID-19 are subjected to sequencing. Although it’s widely understood that the newer omicron variant now is ascendant throughout the world, the first case of omicron-related COVID-19 wasn’t confirmed in the South Heartland district until Jan. 3.
The South Heartland district encompasses Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties. Health department headquarters are in Hastings.
In the agency’s news release issued late Friday afternoon, South Heartland also announced that with the spread of COVID-19 quickening, it is modifying its outreach process when positive cases are recorded.
As of now, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and others who have been exposed to a positive case may not receive a call from the health department. That’s a change from the first 22 months of the pandemic, which began in March 2020.
Instead, some may receive an informational text from South Heartland or from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Anyone who has tested positive, either in a health care setting or at home, or who has become aware of exposure to a positive case is encouraged to visit the South Heartland website, www.southheartlandhealth.org, for guidance regarding isolation and quarantine, testing resources and vaccine information.
While many reports indicate the omicron variant of the virus tends to cause illness less severe than delta causes, omicron is understood to be more transmissible and places further strain on the health care system. It’s also understood that omicron will lead to bad outcomes in a certain number of cases, particularly among the unvaccinated.
“In light of high community transmission and detection of more omicron variant, South Heartland is underscoring the importance of vaccination and boosters to protect against infection, severe illness, hospitalization and death,” the health department stated in its news release.
Residents may contact their personal health care provider or the health department if they have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, additional doses for immunocompromised individuals, booster doses, or COVID-19 testing.
Vaccines against COVID-19 are widely available across the four-county health district and are recommended for anyone 5 years and older. On Thursday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that fully vaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds receive a booster dose of vaccine five months after completing their one- or two-shot primary series.
For locations of COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccine, refer to the South Heartland website. The weekly Wednesday vaccine clinics at the Allen’s building in Hastings, 1115 W. Second St., now run 4-6 p.m. instead of 5-7 as before.
For more information call South Heartland at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.