Health district goes to red on COVID risk dial

Chase County, eight others in district now in most severe category

    The COVID-19 Community Risk Dial for the health district that includes Chase County has been moved to red, meaning residents of southwest Nebraska are at severe risk of contracting COVID-19.
    The move to red was announced Monday in a release from the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department.
    The risk level was raised due to high levels of community spread across several counties and the threat of the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed, said Myra Stoney, SWNPHD director.  
    The number of available hospital beds continues to decrease, and healthcare workers need relief across the state, Stoney said.  
    Nebraska, as a whole, remains in the orange range, one step below red and where SW Nebraska was last week.
    SWNPHD had 240 new cases of COVID-19 from Nov. 10-16.
    That’s up 30% over the 184 recorded the previous week (Nov. 2-9).
    A breakout by county shows the new numbers for the past week: Chase-24; Dundy-2; Frontier-8; Furnas-32; Hitchcock-12; Keith-62; Perkins-17; and Red Willow-83. No cases were reported the past week in Hayes County.  
    In addition to the positive cases, Stoney believes there are likely many more individuals who are infected but are not getting tested.   
     Moving to red, SWNPHD officials recommend residents of the health district stay at home when possible, except for essential errands.  
    “If you do leave home, wear a mask or face covering. High-risk and vulnerable individuals should limit their contact with those who work outside the home,” Stoney said.
    All gatherings and events are strongly discouraged until the risk dial is no longer in the red.
     “This pandemic is a public health emergency, but luckily we know what to do to keep ourselves safe,” Stoney added.  
    “What we need most right now is to get people in their masks. There are those who argue the science behind masking, but we have interviewed hundreds of people and our data shows that masks work,” she said.  
    The number of close contacts that become positive is much lower in situations when everyone is wearing a mask properly, she said.
    Stoney said most of the new cases the past week are due to community spread, meaning the person was infected locally with no clear connection to another positive case.
    This brings the totals for the health district to 1,371 positive cases since record-keeping started, with 880 cases recovered.
    One additional death due to COVID-19 was reported the past week.
    Residents in the SWNPHD can access more detailed information on COVID at their website:
Local hospital numbers
    Chase County Community Hospital CEO Abby Cyboron said they have seen an increased number of patients in recent weeks.
    The 22 patient days recorded Nov. 5-11 were about triple what they usually have, she said, with seven being closer to the norm.
    Right now, she said, staffing is an issue with five to 10 employees out due to COVID.
    Due to both the rising COVID case numbers here and staffing issues at the hospital, Cyboron said they have closed the specialty clinic and cardiac rehab department through Nov. 30. At that time, they will reevaluate, she said.

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