Governor, DHHS CEO present COVID-19 demographics at press briefing

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

At an afternoon press briefing on May 29, Governor Pete Ricketts shared new demographic data on coronavirus cases and fatalities.  The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in partnership with Local Health Departments, has been working diligently to collect and compile the data.

DHHS CEO Dannette R. Smith joined the Governor to provide coronavirus statistics broken down by race, ethnicity, age, and gender.  Additionally, John C. Wyvill, Executive Director for the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NCDHH), took part in the briefing.  He talked about the challenges that deaf and hard of hearing Nebraskans have encountered as more people wear masks.

Gov. Ricketts: Test Nebraska

We continue to encourage people to take the assessment.

I want to remind people that Test Nebraska will operate in the following communities next week:

Chadron, Alliance, Scottsbluff, Sidney, Broken Bow, Burwell, St. Paul, Valentine, O’Neill, Norfolk, Columbus, York, Lincoln, Fremont, Bellevue, and Omaha.

Additional information on the specific locations of the testing sites will be posted on soon.

Dannette Smith: Public Health Data

Governor Ricketts has ensured that DHHS is committed to serving the most vulnerable residents and providing health access to all Nebraskans. 

We have been hard at work in our efforts to collect demographic data and share it with fidelity.  I want to underscore that we will continue to collect, synthesize, and report data in a transparent manner. 

According to the American Community Survey in 2018, Nebraska’s demographic make-up is as follows:

87 percent Caucasian

5 percent African American

5 percent Multiracial or Other Race

2 percent Asian

1 percent American Indian or Alaskan Native

With respect to ethnicity, 89 percent of Nebraskans identify as non-Hispanic and 11 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino.

Data on Nebraska’s coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities—broken down by race and ethnicity—is available by clicking here.

The overwhelming majority (75 percent) of all patients hospitalized with the virus have been 50 years of age or older.

Among coronavirus-related fatalities, 87 percent have occurred among those 60 years of age or older according to the Nebraska Disease Surveillance System.

We continue to learn more about underlying health conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and tobacco use.  These underlying health conditions have a significant impact on the likelihood of recovery from coronavirus infection.  This is especially true for communities of color, where underlying conditions often go undiagnosed due to lack of treatment and care.

This is why Local Health Departments and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are so integral to providing preventative and primary care to vulnerable populations.

John Wyvill: Masks and Communication

The deaf and hard of hearing have had to adjust to new social distancing rules and norms, including the wearing of masks.

In this environment, going to grocery stores, drive-thru banks, and medical appointments has become more challenging.

Twenty percent of Nebraskans have some form of hearing loss, whether diagnosed or not.  Roughly 1 out of 3 Nebraskans over age 65 have hearing loss.

As more people wear masks, be aware of the communication barrier and have a communication plan.

In a medical setting, it’s particularly important for the deaf and hard of hearing to be able to communicate.

One option is to wear clear masks so that others can read your lips when speaking.

It may also be a good idea to keep a smartphone or tablet on hand so that you can type out messages if needed.

New Directed Health Measures (DHM) beginning June 1 were released.  They cover a wide variety of topics and can be found by clicking here.  Previously, the DHM had required 30 percent of beds to be available before a hospital could resume elective surgeries.  Given the continued stability of Nebraska’s hospital system, the next DHM will require 15 percent of beds to be available for elective surgeries to continue.