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Weekly COVID-19 update released by Nebraska DHHS on Feb. 3

Nebraska City News-Press

The latest statewide total of COVID-19 cases is 192,042 as of Feb. 2. There have been 26 COVID-19-related deaths in Nebraska reported in the last seven days, for a total of 1,931. To date, a total of 137,684 Nebraskans testing positive for COVID-19 have recovered.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to decline in the last week, with Nebraska hospitals caring for an average of 322 COVID-19 patients a day over the last seven days. Averages in prior weeks were 402, 444 and 481 COVID-19 patients.

The daily average of new positive cases in the last week was 455, compared to 562 daily cases last week, and 745 and 896 cases a day in recent weeks. Averages for positive cases are now based on test dates, instead of lab reporting date, which provides a more precise view of COVID-19 cases. Data from previous days is updated as lab results are received. ​

Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS, said, “We're still in the early days of this vaccination effort and so it's critical we continue to limit virus spread. Wearing a mask, washing hands, and staying home when you're sick are our best defense against COVID-19."

Anyone who has not completed vaccination and may have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine and get tested. ​

Nebraskans can be #BigRedResponsible by wearing a mask. Additionally, watching your distance, washing hands often, staying home when you're sick, and avoiding the 3C's – crowded places, close contact with others, and confined spaces – are still critical to limiting infection.

Vaccine Update

This week, Nebraska is receiving 30,125 first doses, including 14,625 Pfizer and 15,500 Moderna doses. Second dose shipments scheduled for this week total 25,825, including 14,625 Pfizer and 11,200 Moderna doses.

In addition, 5,800 Pfizer doses initially allocated to the Federal Pharmacy Program in Nebraska will be released this week, with 11,700 Pfizer doses released in the next two weeks. These doses will be used to support vaccination for Phase 1B groups.

DHHS is allocating doses via a vaccine network that includes local health departments, federally qualified health centers, community-based clinics, and tribal health care centers across the state. A total of 125 sites across Nebraska receive vaccine shipments.

Nebraska's 19 local health departments are coordinating vaccination for Phase 1 priority groups.

First dose vaccinations for Phase 1A groups are being finalized, and second dose clinics are being scheduled appropriately to complete vaccination in the coming weeks. Phase 1A includes health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

All Nebraska counties expect to be vaccinating Phase 1B priority groups this week. Phase 1B includes those 65 and older, those 18 and older who are at high-risk for severe COVID-19, and those in critical industries, including: first responders, educators and daycare providers, those in the utilities and transportation sectors, corrections staff, and those working in food processing and at grocery stores.

Those who've received a first dose are reminded that a second dose is needed to complete vaccination, which research shows provides the best protection against COVID-19 symptoms and potential complications.

Community clinics with scheduled appointments are the primary way vaccine doses are being given to help ensure all doses can be used in the required timeframe. Community clinics will stagger appointments in order to observe social distancing and provide space for monitoring after vaccination.

COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available to the public and it's expected to be late spring before mass vaccination begins.

​The Pfizer vaccine was 95 percent effective and the Moderna vaccine 94 percent effective in phase three clinical trials. Comparatively, the flu vaccine is generally 40 to 60 percent effective. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Two doses are needed to reach full effectiveness against COVID-19, and the same brand of vaccine must be administered for both doses. Thus far, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for those 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine approved for those 18 and older. 

The state is taking recommendations of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) into consideration. Priority groups and timing projections remain tentative and will be adjusted as federal recommendations are issued and as vaccine shipments are scheduled. 

Allocation Scorecard

New this week, a Vaccine Allocation Scorecard is now available on the DHHS COVID-19 Vaccine Information page to help track administration of doses allocated by DHHS to Nebraska's local health districts and the CDC's Federal Pharmacy Program.

The Federal Pharmacy Program contracted pharmacy staff to help administer COVID-19 vaccine to residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Doses for long-term care facilities came out of the state's total vaccine allocation, which totaled 46,800 first doses and 46,800 second doses.

The scorecard provides the number and percentage of first and second doses administered by all local health districts and the Federal Pharmacy Program. Allocations are updated weekly and doses administered is updated daily.

Vaccine Registration

DHHS has a website available to help Nebraskans register to be notified when COVID-19 vaccination begins in their area.

Available at vaccinate.ne.gov , more than 140,600 registrations have been received so far.

Those 65 and older who have registered for vaccination with their local health department do not need to register a second time using the state site. Local health departments and DHHS are working to migrate all registrations.

Those who are 18 to 64 with a high-risk medical condition and live outside of Lancaster County are asked to register using the state site to help ensure proper prioritization in Phase 1B. Residents of Lancaster County should register using the local health department's online vaccine registration option.

Those interested in registering will need to provide name and contact information, date of birth, occupation, and answer health questions used to help determine priority group eligibility. Any information entered is strictly confidential and used solely for this purpose. Friends, family and caregivers are encouraged to assist others with vaccine sign-up if needed, and the DHHS Information line can assist those with limited technology, language or Internet access, and is available by calling (531) 249-1873 or (833) 998-2275.

A Spanish version of the website is in development. ​

Vaccine Dashboard

As of Tuesday, more than 198,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 priority groups. More than 55,000 or 3.71% of Nebraskans 16 or older have completed vaccination.

To follow Nebraska's COVID-19 vaccination progress, please visit the COVID-19 Vaccination dashboard .

The vaccination dashboard is updated each morning with data from the prior day. 

Monitoring for New COVID-19 Strains

Nebraska is monitoring for new and emerging COVID-19 strains, which appear to be more contagious, but do not appear to result in more severe COVID-19 cases. None of the three variants have been identified in Nebraska so far. 

Genomic sequencing of positive samples is used to identify and confirm new strains, such as those first identified in Brazil, South Africa and the U.K. The state began sending positive COVID-19 samples to the CDC in December as part of its surveillance for emerging strains. In early January, Nebraska purchased equipment for the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory to begin in-state monitoring for emerging strains, and recently expanded in-house genomic sequencing capacity.

COVID-19 Testing

Testing continues to be crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19. Anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19, anyone experiencing any symptoms, those planning to travel, or those who are returning from travel are encouraged to schedule a COVID-19 test.

Free testing is available at more than 60 Test Nebraska sites across the state.

COVID-19 symptoms can include a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, tiredness, muscle aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

Visit Testnebraska.com , or TestNebraska.com/es  for Spanish, to schedule an appointment. Those with questions about testing, or who need help completing the online assessment, can call the Test Nebraska hotline at (402) 207-9377.

Directed Health Measures

A five-phase series of Directed Health Measures (DHMs) aimed at preserving hospital capacity for urgent medical care is in effect for the entire state. Currently less than 10% of hospital beds are needed for COVID-19 patients.

As of Saturday, Jan. 30, the state is in the green phase, which removes capacity restrictions for indoor gatherings but it's recommended that Nebraskans continue following guidance to reduce virus transmission. Organizers of events for 500 or more people, or 1,000 people in Douglas County, are required to receive approval from their local health department. Capacity restrictions remain in place for Lancaster County.

Additionally, quarantine-related DHMs have been updated. Those who have received both COVID-19 vaccine doses, and those who have recovered from coronavirus in the past three months are not required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Individuals in either situation are able to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days, but are required to wear a mask when in public. Anyone who has symptoms must stay home.

DHHS immunization leaders will hold a Facebook Live session tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 4 at 12:05 p.m. CT to discuss vaccination among minority populations and answer questions. For those unable to join, the discussion will be archived and available on the video tab of the DHHS Facebook page . ​

DHHS continues to share new information via its Coronavirus website, as well as on Facebook  and Twitter . In addition, the DHHS COVID-19 information line is available to answer questions at (531) 249-1873 or (833) 998-2275. The line is staffed seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.