South Heartland District Health Department

Rising average daily counts of new cases and a second consecutive week of increased test positivity should be taken as signs the South Heartland Health District hasn’t yet finished its battle against the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

That was the assessment Monday evening from Michele Bever, executive director of the district health department, as she announced 30 new laboratory-confirmed cases of the viral infection among district residents over the past seven days.

(The health department last week eliminated its Thursday night news release updating case numbers, so the last case tallies released were on April 12.)

The last seven days’ case tally brings the cumulative number of cases reported to date among South Heartland residents to 4,791. The district’s first case was reported on March 18, 2020.

The new confirmed cases for April 13-19 included 21 in Adams County, one in Clay County, eight in Webster County, and zero in Nuckolls County. The health district encompasses those four counties.

By county, the new cumulative totals are: 3,078 cases in Adams, 754 cases in Clay, 548 cases in Nuckolls, and 411 cases in Webster.

In terms of test positivity, Bever reported the overall positivity rate for April 11-17 (that is, the number of positive test results divided by the number of tests performed) increased to 4.1% from 3.1% for the previous week.

“If we look only at community testing, the positivity is 10%, up from 9.4% the previous week,” she said.

Community testing numbers exclude long-term care facilities, where residents and employees undergo testing more frequently than in the general population. Bever said long-term care facility testing in the district yielded no positive COVID-19 results this past week.

By county, community positivity increased to 9.5% in Adams, up from 9.2% the prior week, and increased to 30.4% in Webster, up from 14.3% the prior week. The positivity decreased to 3.6% in Clay County, down from 8.7% the week before, and decreased to zero in Nuckolls County, down from 7.1% the week before.

Metrics related to community spread of the virus are moving in the wrong direction right now, Bever said — and that should be taken as a warning that vigilance remains necessary concerning COVID-19 and the many variants of the virus now swirling around the world.

Vigilance, in this case, means such measures as social distancing, mask use, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

“In addition to increased district-level positivity for two weeks in a row, we are seeing a trend of increased daily cases,” Bever said. “For the past five days, the 14-day average of daily new cases has been above our goal of 8 per 100,000. We had finally dropped below 8 cases per day per 100K on March 25, so this reversal is concerning.

“What this tells us is that South Heartland District is not yet ‘out of the woods’ with this virus or its variants. What this means for South Heartland District is that we cannot let down our guard. If you have any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please stay home from work, school and activities and get tested for COVID-19. I can’t emphasize enough that we need to continue to avoid the three Cs: avoid crowded places, close contact, and confined spaces.

“Wear a mask in public, keep distanced from others you do not live with, and get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you have the opportunity.”

As of Monday, about 35% of South Heartland residents had received at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 and 25% had received a complete series, whether that means two shots or one, the health department reported.

“These vaccines are effective against severe illness, hospitalization and death caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Bever said. “Our goal is for more than 70% of residents to be vaccinated to provide protection against the spread of the virus in our communities and across the district.”