New COVID-19 cases plummet in Nebraska

Mike Stucka

Nebraska reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, adding 1,713 new cases. That's down 51.3% from the previous week's toll of 3,514 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Nebraska ranked 41st 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 489,902 reported cases of coronavirus, a decrease of 23% from the week before. Across the country, six states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Across Nebraska, cases fell in 61 counties, with the best declines in Sarpy, Douglas and York counties.

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The share of Nebraska test results that came back positive was 2.8% in the latest week, compared with 4.9% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 61,478 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 71,411. 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 Logan, Hitchcock and Dundy counties. Adding the most new cases overall were Douglas County, with 494 cases; Lancaster County, with 306 cases; and Sarpy County, with 205. Weekly case counts rose in 18 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Scotts Bluff, Buffalo and Burt counties.

In Nebraska, 45 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in the week ending Sunday. In the week before that, 34 people were reported dead.

A total of 198,949 people in Nebraska have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 2,047 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 28,134,115 people have tested positive and 498,897 people have died.

The Rev. Daniel Belken sprinkles ashes on top of a parishioner's head during the Ash Wednesday Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. This year ashes were sprinkled on top of the head as a precaution against spreading COVID-19.