COVID positivity highest this week in Nuckolls County
December 24, 2020
Though the first shipments of the newly approved COVID-19 vaccines are arriving in this area, the vaccine didn’t arrive in time for some people. Monday night South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) officials reported four additional COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the health district total of deaths attributed to the virus to 46. Others with the virus have died but their death was attributed to other causes. A spokesperson for the health district, Michele Bever said two of the deaths were in Clay County and two in Adams County.
Bever reported 63 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases from Friday through Monday, bringing the cumulative number of cases in the four-county health district to 3,553. “We are glad to see the downward trend in new daily cases continuing,” she said. “However, we need to remain extra vigilant with COVID prevention over the next several weeks, especially with school break, December sports tournaments, holiday gatherings and other higher risk opportunities for coronavirus spread,” she said.
The new confirmed cases for the four-day period include: 40 in Adams, 15 in Clay, 4 in Nuckolls and 4 in Webster. By county, the new cumulative totals are: 2,321 cases in Adams, 564 cases in Clay, 374 cases in Nuckolls, and 294 cases in Webster.
“Some good news: SHDHD’s positivity (percent positive tests) for the week ending Dec. 19 was below 10 percent for the first time since Oct. 3, dipping to 9.3 percent, down from 14.8 percent the previous week,” Bever said. By county, the highest positivity was in Nuckolls County with 10.2 percent. The positivity was 9.8 percent in Adams, 8.6 percent in Clay and 7.2 percent in Webster.
Bever said more than 250 doses of Pfizer COVID vaccine were administered last week, nearly all through Mary Lanning Healthcare. She said between the health district and Brodstone Memorial Hospital, South Heartland is expecting to receive 600 doses of Moderna vaccine this week. “The first two to three weeks of vaccine allotment is being directed to health care workers, beginning with those who have direct patient care, according to Nebraska’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. This Phase 1A vaccination includes hospital and primary care personnel, emergency medical services personnel, and long-term care facility staff and residents,” she said.
Bever said other health care workers will also receive their shots as part of Phase 1A vaccination before the district moves on to Phase 1B, which focuses on critical infrastructure and includes first responders, utilities, the food and agricultural sector, transportation sector and the education sector. Phase 1C will include persons age 65 and older and other vulnerable individuals, according to Nebraska’s plan.
“Once the vaccine is more widely available, we will enter Phase 2 and vaccine will be offered to the general public through some health care providers, some pharmacies, and local health departments,” she said. Bever said vaccine information and updates will be provided on SHDHD’s COVID-19 vaccine webpage
In a related note from Blue Cross of Nebraska, the insurance company has reported a recent study shows children in Nebraska are missing critical vaccinations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, raising the risk of preventable disease outbreaks.
Childhood immunization rates for members from January through September found vaccinations decreased when 2020 was compared to 2019 as follows:
• 10.6 percent decrease for MMR, protecting against measles, mumps and rubella
• 4.15 percent decrease for DTaP, protecting against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough
• 2.43 percent decrease for polio, protecting against poliomyelitis
These findings align with a recently published Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Health of America study that estimates children across the U.S. will miss 9 million doses of these critical vaccinations by the end of 2020. The study, which also compared data from January through September of 2019 to 2020, indicates that vaccinations were down 26 percent for MMR and DTaP and 16 percent for polio nationwide.
While the Nebraska vaccination rates are better than those found in the national study, the decline is still concerning. The fewer people vaccinated, the greater the risk of a community losing herd immunity, which occurs when a large portion of a population is immune to a contagious disease, making it difficult for the disease to spread.
“In order to protect those who cannot get immunized because they’re immunosuppressed or undergoing cancer therapy, for example, we want to make sure a majority of our population is immune, so we can prevent that infection from taking hold and spreading rapidly,” Dr. Debra Esser, BCBSNE’s chief medical officer, said.
Dr. Jane Carnazzo, has experience treating children with diseases (like meningitis), which are now preventable with vaccinations. “Anyone who has practiced as long as I have will tell you how scary it is,” Carnazzo said. “Today I so rarely see that because of those very valuable vaccines that children get now in infancy.”
In the national BCBSA study, 40 percent of parents reported the pandemic as the reason their child missed vaccinations. Dr. Carnazzo explained that this shouldn’t deter families from well-child visits, pointing out that family clinics have safety measures in place, including completing temperature checks and requiring masks, to protect the health of staff and patients.