Rising Covid-19 Case Numbers Push Risk Dial Upward

Lincoln, NE (December 7, 2021)  The arrival of the Omicron Variant of Covid-19 shook up Nebraska last week, but so far no cases have been recorded in Lancaster County.  Health Director Pat Lopez said the rise in cases over the past weeks has pushed the 7 day rolling average to 170 new cases per day.  Three fourths of the new cases lately have been under 50 years of age.  Positive rates of tests have also been rising.  It reached 14.7 percent in the past week, she said, the highest point it has been during the pandemic.  The seven day rolling average number of people in Lincoln’s hospitals is also rising rapidly, currently standing at 106.  “This is a strain on capacity, and our hospitals are struggling” Lopez said.

Lopez said Nebraskans who are not vaccinated are ten times more likely to seek hospitalization.  Four out of 100 who are vaccinated have been seeking hospital care, she said, but forty out of 100 have need hospital care.

Bryan Health CEO Russ Gronewold said the Hospital has been at peak load for weeks.  He said that 90 percent of all patients in the Intensive Care Unit are not vaccinated.  The extra patient load, he said, is being handled by a requirement for mandatory overtime by employees.  Normally, he said, the hospital staffs and plans for 500 patients.  During the 23rd week of the current surge, he said, the hospital has been at or above the peak load of 550 patients.

“The most emerging story for us is that there is no extra capacity in Omaha, or in any surrounding states.  That means we are now turning away, or putting on a wait list, not only Covid patients but other critical care patients.  ”  Gronewold said they are decided, hour by hour, which patient gets the next empty bed.

Lopez also announced that Lincoln and Lancaster County have seen four more residents die today from the virus.

Because of the rising numbers of cases, positive rate, and strain on hospital capacity, Lopez raised the Covid 19 Risk Dial from the mid-orange to the elevated orange level.  She explained that means there is an increasing risk of Covid spread throughout the community.