New COVID-19 cases plummet in Nebraska

Mike Stucka
Alexa Zarlengo, R.N., receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Debbie Mahoney, R.N., at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.

Nebraska reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Saturday, adding 7,727 new cases. That's down 15.3% from the previous week's toll of 9,120 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Nebraska ranked No. 30 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the latest week the United States added 1,512,372 reported cases of coronavirus, an increase of 1.3% from the week before. Across the country, 17 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Across Nebraska, cases fell in 62 counties, with the best declines in Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy counties.

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The share of Nebraska test results that came back positive was 9.3% in the latest week, compared with 10.2% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 84,949 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 103,624. Experts say it is important to look at the share of tests that come back positive, not just case counts, to get a better idea of whether the rate of new infections is changing or if differences in testing are playing a role.

The World Health Organization says places should be conducting enough tests to have fewer than 5% coming back positive. Places where the percentage is higher could struggle to complete contact tracing soon enough to prevent spread of the virus.

Within Nebraska, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Johnson, Kimball and Wheeler counties. Adding the most new cases overall were Douglas County, with 2,637 cases; Lancaster County, with 989 cases; and Sarpy County, with 858. Weekly case counts rose in 27 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Hall, Seward and Johnson counties.

In Nebraska, 110 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in the week ending Saturday. In the week before that, 171 people were reported dead.

A total of 155,415 people in Nebraska have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 1,475 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 17,655,591 people have tested positive and 316,159 people have died.