Coronavirus cases surge in Nebraska

Mike Stucka
People wait in their cars to be tested for the coronavirus with drive-up rapid testing at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Oct. 23, 2020.

New coronavirus cases leaped in Nebraska in the week ending Saturday, rising 23.8% as 14,439 cases were reported. The previous week had 11,663 new cases.

Nebraska ranked No. 6 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the latest week the United States added 1,017,810 reported cases of coronavirus, an increase of 33.3% from the week before. Across the country, 48 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Within Nebraska, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Johnson, Arthur and Perkins counties. Adding the most new cases overall were Douglas County, with 4,116 cases; Lancaster County, with 1,692 cases; and Sarpy County, with 1,276. Weekly case counts rose in 65 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy counties.

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The share of Nebraska test results that came back positive was 14.9% in the latest week, compared with 13.2% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 95,413 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 83,723.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.

Across Nebraska, cases fell in 25 counties, with the best declines in Scotts Bluff, Lincoln and Custer counties.

In the state, 76 people died in the latest week. In the previous week, 51 people died.

A total of 96,834 people in Nebraska have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 779 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 10,903,890 people have tested positive and 245,598 people have died.