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COVID-19: Case rates doubling every 10-12 days in Lancaster County

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 3:42 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For the second week in a row, the Lancaster County COVID-19 Risk Dial is moving in the wrong direction; now to Elevated Yellow. It comes as, according to Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department data, daily case averages in the month of August have reached 68 per day.

That’s a 655% increase since the first week of July, when the case average was nine per day.

“The Delta variant is driving the increase in cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rate,” said LLCHD Health Director Pat Lopez. “It’s different and is more likely to cause severe illness, especially in people who’re unvaccinated.”

Since the beginning of July, the rolling daily average of hospitalizations in Lincoln have also quadrupled; from 14 per day in the beginning of July to 58 per day right now. The last time the COVID-19 Risk Dial was in Elevated Yellow was the week of February 9, 2021, about six months ago.

The positivity rate has reached 10%, up from 3% in the beginning of July, according to Dir. Lopez.

Lancaster County recently announced that it’ll be mandating masks for children ages 2 to 11 in school settings.

“The more eligible children and staff who get vaccinated, the safer schools will be,” Lopez said. “In Lancaster County, almost 69% of people 16 and older are fully vaccinated.”

Dr. Ali Piper, a pulmonoligst and critical care physician in Lincoln, elaborated on what she’s seen first-hand at Lincoln hospitals.

“We know COVID. We have seen the darkest days of the pandemic and we are scared,” Dr. Piper said. “We are scared, defeated, and desperate.”

Dr. Piper called the current situation frustrating because it was largely preventable. She cited data she’s seen in her own experiences. According to her, two weeks ago, she was caring for 10 patients who were critically ill with COVID-19. Of the ten, nine were unvaccinated, four have died, and only one has recovered.

“I would not ask you to put on a mask and get a vaccine if I didn’t think it was ultimately necessary to halt this surge,” Dr. Piper said. “These patients would likely not have been hospitalized if they’d been vaccinated.”

In encouraging vaccinations and mask wearing, Dr. Piper said ignoring the pandemic is not an option.

“You can contribute by getting a vaccine. You can contribute by wearing a mask and you can contribute by masking your children,” she said.

Vaccination rates have increased in Lancaster County over the last couple of weeks. So far in August, nearly 3,400 people in Lancaster County have initiated the process.

Of Lancaster County’s 319,000 people, about 16% or roughly 51,000 are 11 and under, meaning they can’t get the vaccine. So far, of the roughly 268,000 people 12 and older, about 175,400 have been fully vaccinated, or about 65.4% of the eligible population.

As of right now, there will be no new Directed Health Measures or requirements from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

Director Lopez highly encouraged anybody heading to the Garth Brooks concert at Memorial Stadium on August 14 to wear a mask, even though it’s outdoors.

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