Area health departments give COVID-19 update

HASTINGS, KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) – As Nebraska continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases, both the South Heartland District Health Department and the Two Rivers Public Health Department have released updates on how the pandemic is impacting its area.

The Two Rivers Public Health Deaprtment said it had 66 new cases of COVID-19 in its seven-county region as of Wednesday.

Those include 36 out of Buffalo county, 21 in Dawson County, five in Phelps county, two in Kearney County and one new case in both Gosper and Harland Counties.

While in Hastings, SHDHD Executive Director Michele Bever said the district’s COVID-19 risk dial remains at 3.3, in the red zone. Bever said the high number of hospitalized COVID patients, low hospital ICU bed availability (zero available one day last week), inability to conduct effective contact tracing, high percent positive tests (positivity), and high average number of new positive tests each day are key factors keeping the risk dial in the red.

On Wednesday, hospitals in the South Heartland district were caring for 26 patients with COVID-19. Overall, 63% of inpatients were COVID-positive and 18% of the staffed intensive care unit beds were available.

Bever said there are 14 long term care facilities in the South Heartland district with staff, residents, or both who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 2 weeks. LTCFs with outbreaks work directly with a team of professionals with the Nebraska Infection Control Assessment and Promotion Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to manage the outbreaks.

As of Wednesday, twelve school districts in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties were affected by COVID-19. Overall, there were 230 students and staff out from PreK-12 schools including 32 individuals (21 students, 11 staff) in isolation due to testing positive for COVID-19.

Bever said there is high demand for COVID testing in the district, with 424 more tests conducted last week than the previous week. SHDHD received 335 positive COVID-19 test results for the week ending November 21, averaging 48 positive tests per day. While this is a 15% net decrease over the previous week, the large number of new positive test reports each day continues to overwhelm the local health department’s ability to provide timely investigation, even in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services disease investigation team.

Individuals who test positive and have not received a call from SHDHD or Nebraska DHHS disease investigation teams can take next steps on their own using “Contact Tracing Information for the Public” materials on South Heartland’s website: www.southheartlandhealth.org.

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