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Nebraska DHHS releases weekly COVID-19 update

Nebraska City News-Press

The latest statewide case total is 87,733 as of Nov. 10. There were 70 new COVID-19-related deaths in the state over the last seven days, for a total of 730. A total of 49,761 Nebraskans diagnosed with COVID-19 have since recovered.

Daily hospitalizations over the last seven days increased by 187, for a total of 860. The daily average of positive cases for the last seven days is 1,953, compared to a daily average of 1,240 last week, and 852 and 838 cases in prior weeks.

“I want to stress the sense of urgency due to the current conditions we're experiencing in our state. We  have hundreds of Nebraskans hospitalized due to COVID-19 and cases continue to climb, which will result in additional COVID-19 related deaths," said Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “Our behaviors matter. Our choices matter. We know what we need to do to slow the spread of the virus and help maintain available care for the people who need it. Wear a mask when you're around people you don't live with. Avoid situations involving the 3Cs – crowded places, close contact and confined spaces and wash your hands regularly."

New Directed Health Measures

Effective Wednesday, Nov. 11, a new Directed Health Measure (DHM) went into effect for the entire state until Nov. 30. The DHM outlines several restrictions to help limit virus transmission in the public domain.

Social distancing: Nebraskans are required to keep six feet of distance from other parties at any indoor gathering, including restaurants, bars, churches and fitness centers. Residents of the same household are considered a party only for churches, weddings and funerals.

Capacity restrictions for indoor gatherings: Auditoriums, libraries, theaters, sports complexes and arenas up to 10,000 people, and all other indoor spaces are to operate at 25 percent capacity. 

Restaurants and bars may operate at full capacity as long as six feet of distance is maintained between tables. Parties are restricted to groups of eight, and patrons must remain seated unless ordering, using the restroom or playing games. Those playing games must wear a mask when not eating or drinking.

Churches and places of worship may operate at full capacity but must maintain at least six feet of distance between households, and outdoor venues may operate at full capacity.

Masks required in close contact businesses: staff and patrons are required to wear a mask at any business where close contact occurs for more than 15 minutes, including: salons and barbershops, massage therapy businesses, and tattoo parlors, as well as bowling alleys and pool halls.

Limited spectators at indoor sporting events: fans at indoor school and club-sponsored youth events are limited to the household members of the participants.

Indoor dances are not permitted: dancing at wedding receptions is permitted if other individuals remain seated at their tables.

Thanksgiving preparations

Nebraskans are encouraged to adapt holiday plans in light of the ongoing pandemic.

To celebrate safely, consider altering Thanksgiving traditions to include only those in your household, deliver food to high-risk friends and family or those unable to attend in person, and choose to shop online with favorite merchants instead of in stores.

Those hosting or attending gatherings are encouraged to keep them small and local, plan to be outside if weather permits, wear masks if meeting those from outside your household, and avoid contact with others in the two weeks before and after any gathering.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more suggestions to help adjust traditions available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html .

Anyone with COVID-19, or who may have been exposed to COVID-19, should avoid in-person gatherings, as well as the three Cs–crowded places, close contact and confined spaces.

COVID-19 testing via Test Nebraska

All Test Nebraska locations and the Test Nebraska hotline will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 26 for Thanksgiving, and re-open for regularly scheduled hours on Friday, Nov. 27. There will be no interruption in lab services during the holiday.

Those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who are experiencing symptoms can receive a free test through Test Nebraska. Symptoms can include a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, tiredness, muscle aches, headaches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.  

Visit Testnebraska.com , or use TestNebraska/es  for Spanish, to schedule an appointment at one of more than 60 Test Nebraska locations across the state. Nebraskans with general questions about testing or who need help completing the online assessment can call the Test Nebraska hotline at (402) 207-9377.

State contact tracing update

Contact tracing is an important tool to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It starts when a positive test result is reported to the state or local health department. Next, a trained contact tracer calls the person who tested positive for COVID-19. The contact tracer asks about what symptoms they may be experiencing, if they know where and when they were exposed, as well as who they were in close contact with during the few days prior to their onset of symptoms or positive test result.

Quick stats

Over an eight-week period, starting September 6, the number of cases handled by DHHS contact tracers increased nearly four times.

For the week of September 6, 82 percent of the 750 case interviews handled by DHHS were completed within 48 hours of the positive test result being reported.

For the week ending October 31, 85 percent of the 2,961 case interviews were completed within 48 hours of the positive test result being reported. 

Even with a nearly fourfold increase in the number of cases handled since early September, the state's contact tracers have been able to increase the percentage of case interviews completed within 48 hours. 

If you receive a call from your Local Health Department or a Lincoln number, it is important to answer the phone. Completing an interview with a contact tracer is one way that Nebraskans can be responsible and help protect others, preserve hospital capacity and slow the transmission of the virus.

Online Center for Nursing resource launched

A new online resource is now available to connect nurses and nurse assistants with health care facilities in Nebraska that have critical staffing needs during the pandemic. The webpage is center4nursing.nebraska.gov/covid19-resources .

DHHS worked collaboratively with the Nebraska Assembly of Nursing Deans and Directors, LeadingAge of Nebraska, the Nebraska Healthcare Association, and the Nebraska Center for Nursing on the development of this resource.

The webpage serves as a central location where nursing assistants and registered nurses can find information on opportunities to provide assistance during the pandemic. Nursing students can also take advantage of this opportunity. All of the health care facilities participating on the website will provide training and orientation for any new hires.

Nebraska health care facilities that would like to list opportunities on the website can contact Ann Oertwich by calling (402) 471-0317 or by emailing ann.oertwich@nebraska.gov.

Nebraskans seeking information or help with general questions can call the DHHS COVID-19 information hotline at (402) 552-6645, or toll-free (833) 998-2275. The COVID-19 hotline is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. CT, 7 days a week.  

DHHS will continue to share new information via the DHH website, http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.