HASTINGS – Today marked week two of COVID-19 vaccinations, with 581 vaccinations logged so far since the first doses of vaccine arrived in the South Heartland health district on December 15.
South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) executive director Michele Bever said Phase 1 of vaccine distribution identifies priority groups to receive the vaccine due to the initial limited availability of vaccine. Health care workers are prioritized to receive the first doses of the vaccine, beginning with those who have direct patient contact.
"To guide our planning, we are using Nebraska's COVID-19 Vaccination Plan along with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services' priority recommendations," she said. "Other local approved vaccine providers, to include Mary Lanning Healthcare, Brodstone Memorial Hospital, Clay County Health Department, and Webster County Community Hospital, are working with us to reach this priority group in our four counties."
Bever said vaccine information and updates, along with links to the Nebraska COVID-19 Vaccination Plan and vaccine priority recommendations, are available on SHDHD's COVID-19 vaccine webpage.
Bever also reported South Heartland's COVID-19 risk dial dropped further into the orange, elevated, risk level. Bever said the drop to 2.6 from 2.8 the previous week is indicative of improvements in several metrics, including the health district's positivity, or percent positive tests, which dropped below 10% for the first time since early October.
The 14-day average number of new daily cases also dropped from 100 per 100,000 population to 65 per 100,000 population. Bever said another factor is the improved hospital capacity, with a higher percentage of ICU beds available and a lower percentage of current inpatients that are COVID positive.
"Vaccine availability is also a positive factor," Bever said. "Vaccine is another tool to help us prevent illness and reduce spread of the virus that causes COVID-19."
"We need to use all of these tools to have the most effective defense against the spread of the virus in our communities," she said. "We aren't at the end of the tunnel yet, but we are beginning to see some light."
The levels of risk for COVID-19 spread are indicated on the risk dial as low (0-1.0, green), moderate (1.0-2.0, yellow), elevated (2.0-3.0, orange) and severe (3.0-4.0, red). The COVID Risk Dial & Community Guidance can be found on SHDHD webpages at www.southheartlandhealth.org. South Heartland District case counts and trends can be found on SHDHD's dashboard of local COVID-19 case statistics. This dashboard, along with updates, guidance, news releases and other COVID-19 information and links can be found on the SHDHD website: www.southheartlandhealth.org. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides daily updates to Nebraska's coronavirus COVID-19 cases on their Data Dashboard at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.