Nebraska DHHS releases weekly COVID-19 case count across state

Nebraska City News-Press

The latest statewide total of COVID-19 cases is 183,318 as of Jan. 19. There have been 59 COVID-19-related deaths in Nebraska reported in the last seven days, for a total of 1,850. To date, a total of 127,221 Nebraskans testing positive for COVID-19 have recovered.

While still elevated, COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to come down, with Nebraska hospitals caring for an average of 444 COVID-19 patients a day over the last seven days. Averages in prior weeks were 481, 522, and 528 COVID-19 patients.

The daily average of new positive cases in the last week was 781, compared to 948 daily cases last week, and 1,036 and 780 cases a day in recent weeks.

Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS, said, “We're still in the early days of this vaccination effort and so it's critical we continue to limit virus spread. Wearing a mask, washing hands, and staying home when you're sick are the best tools to fight against COVID-19."

Anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine and get tested. Nebraskans are reminded to wear a mask, watch your distance, wash hands often, and avoid the 3Cs – crowded places, close contact with others, and confined spaces – every time you're away from home.

Vaccine Update

For most areas of Nebraska, Phase 1B vaccination will begin next week, with Douglas and Lancaster County beginning Phase 1B vaccination in early February.

DHHS announced last week that Phase 1B priority groups will expand to match federal recommendations to include those 65 and older and those at high-risk for severe COVID-19, as well as workers in critical industries who are unable to work remotely. The high-risk medical conditions include those identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as increasing the risk for severe COVID-19 . 

Next week DHHS will launch a website to help Nebraskans register to be notified when COVID-19 vaccination begins in their area. Those interested in registering will need to provide name, date of birth, an email address and phone number, occupation, and answer health questions used to determine priority group eligibility.

Family members and caregivers are encouraged to assist others with vaccine sign-up if needed. Any information entered is strictly confidential and will be used solely to determine phase eligibility in administering the vaccine.  

In the interim, many local health departments are offering electronic signup on their websites, and the DHHS COVID-19 information line is available for those with vaccine-related questions at (833) 998-2275. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.

DHHS immunization leaders will hold a Facebook Live session tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 21 at 12:05 p.m. CT to discuss vaccine safety and answer questions. For those unable to join, the discussion will be archived and available on the video tab of the DHHS Facebook page.

The Pfizer vaccine was 95 percent effective and the Moderna vaccine 94 percent effective in phase three clinical trials. Comparatively, the flu vaccine is generally 40 to 60 percent effective. Neither vaccine contains a live virus and cannot give individuals COVID-19. Two vaccine doses are needed to reach full effectiveness against COVID-19, and the same brand of vaccine must be administered for both doses.

The state is taking under consideration the recommendations of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Priority groups and timing projections remain tentative and will be adjusted as federal recommendations are issued and as vaccine shipments are scheduled.

Nebraska is currently allocated about 23,000 first doses a week and 11,000 second doses. The COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available to the public and it's expected to be late spring before sufficient supplies are available to begin mass vaccination.

Vaccine Dashboard

As of Tuesday, more than 109,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to Phase 1 priority groups, including health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff.

More than 75 percent of the state's 90,000 Nebraska hospital, health care and emergency medical services workers have received their first vaccine dose, with more than 15,000 receiving a second dose.

Residents and staff of 428 Nebraska long-term care facilities have received their first vaccine dose, with second dose clinics now underway.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard  provides a recap of Nebraska's vaccination effort, including the daily total of doses given, the total number of first and second doses, and a breakdown of first and second doses given by age, gender, race, and ethnicity. The dashboard also reports the percent of the population aged 16 and older completing COVID-19 vaccination. Thus far, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for those age 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine approved for those age 18 and older. 

The vaccination dashboard is updated each evening with data from the prior day.

COVID-19 Case Dashboard Update

The COVID-19 Case Dashboard was offline temporarily for maintenance and a system update. As the data team continues to work through the update, the following data tabs have been validated and are now available: DHM Thresholds, Hospital Capacity, Positives, Hospitalizations, Deaths and Lab Turnaround Time (Note: while the Recoveries and Race and Ethnicity tabs are available, these items were last updated on Jan. 18). DHHS expects the site to be available later in the week.

Local health departments are reporting COVID-19 data in their jurisdictions. In the interim, DHHS is providing a daily recap of COVID-19 hospitalizations and hospital capacity, deaths and other data as available on its Coronavirus website.

COVID-19 Testing – Travel Guidance

Testing continues to be crucial to limiting COVID-19. Anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19, who is experiencing any symptoms, and those planning to travel or returning from travel are encouraged to schedule a COVID-19 test. Free testing is available at one of the more than 60 Test Nebraska sites across the state.

Those planning international travel are advised that beginning next week, travelers returning to the U.S. will be required to provide proof of a COVID-19 test taken no more than 3 days before their return flight. Returning travelers will need to present either a negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to their airline before boarding.

The order takes effect Tuesday, Jan. 26, and will apply to all passengers 2 years and older traveling to the U.S., including citizens and permanent residents. More on the requirement is available from the CDC .

For those traveling within the U.S., the CDC advises getting a COVID-19 test 1 to 3 days prior to travel, and 3 to 5 days after returning home. Anyone testing positive should isolate and not travel. The CDC recommends anyone returning home reduce non-essential activities for 7 days after travel for those taking a COVID-19 test, and 10 days after travel for those who don't test.

COVID-19 symptoms can include a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, tiredness, muscle aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

Visit Testnebraska.com , or TestNebraska.com/es  for Spanish, to schedule an appointment. Those with questions about testing, or who need help completing the online assessment, can call the Test Nebraska hotline at (402) 207-9377.

DHMs Remain for Indoor Gatherings

A five-phase series of Directed Health Measures (DHMs) remain in effect for the entire state. DHM restrictions are aimed at preserving hospital capacity for urgent medical care as COVID-19 hospitalizations remain elevated.

Less than 15 percent of hospital beds are needed for COVID-19 patients, and the state is in the blue threshold, which is the fourth of the five series of directives. Through Jan. 31, indoor gatherings are restricted to 75 percent of capacity.

An outline of the DHMs is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/hmadcuih3j2xlyd/Color-Coded%20%20Phase%20Comparison%2011.13.20.pdf?dl=0 . 

DHHS will continue to share new information via its Coronavirus website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.