New COVID-19 cases plummet in Nebraska

Mike Stucka
Registered Nurse Linda Hixson prepares to give Joe Knight his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Knight, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, is the first outpatient veteran to receive the new Moderna vaccine at the Joint Ambulatory Care Center in Pensacola, Florida.

Nebraska reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, adding 5,952 new cases. That's down 15.3% from the previous week's toll of 7,026 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Nebraska ranked No. 36 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 1,523,301 reported cases of coronavirus, a decrease of -11.1% from the week before. Across the country, 9 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Testing has changed around the holidays, making comparisons difficult. Labs and testing sites closed. People traveled or prepared for the holidays instead of getting tested. Some counties and states didn't report data as quickly.

Across Nebraska, cases fell in 48 counties, with the best declines in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy counties.

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The share of Nebraska test results that came back positive was 8.7% in the latest week, compared with 9.4% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 60,603 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 78,291. 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 Hitchcock, Dundy and Merrick ​counties​. Adding the most new cases overall were Douglas County, with 1,865 cases; Lancaster County, with 1,022 cases; and Sarpy County, with 626. Weekly case counts rose in 31 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Saunders, York and Hitchcock counties.

In Nebraska, 77 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in the week ending Sunday. In the week before that, 88 people were reported dead.

A total of 181,978 people in Nebraska have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 1,837 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 23,933,368 people have tested positive and 397,574 people have died.