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COVID-19: Recoveries rising as Nebraska cases flatten 12 weeks after first case discovered

As of Friday, April 10, Nebraska has nearly 700 cases of COVID-19. (Source: KOLN / Johns Hopkins)
As of Friday, April 10, Nebraska has nearly 700 cases of COVID-19. (Source: KOLN / Johns Hopkins)(KOLNKGIN)
Published: May. 29, 2020 at 8:33 PM CDT
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Optimists agree, the COVID-19 peak has likely come, but whether it’s yet gone is still a question. The number of new daily cases were dipping, but there’s been a slight uptick this week, with 1,035 new cases over the last three days. The number of daily deaths related to COVID-19 is holding steady.

Recoveries are rising, too, though the data is incomplete.

Nebraska has seen 9,313 new COVID-19 cases during the month of May, or about 321 cases per day.

Let’s take a look at the average number of new cases per day over the last five weeks:

May 23-29 = 2,229 or 318 cases per day

May 16-22 = 2,246 or 320 cases per day

May 9-15 = 1,941 or 277 cases per day

May 2-8 = 2,789 or 398 cases per day

April 25-May 1 = 2,577 or 368 cases per day

Now, let’s look at the average number of deaths per day over the last three weeks:

May 23-29 = 30 deaths or 3.9 per day

May 16-22 = 23 deaths or 3.3 per day

May 9-15 = 30 deaths or 4.3 per day

May 2-8 = 19 deaths or 2.7 per day

April 25-May 1 = 25 or 3.5 per day

There are currently 13,654 cases in Nebraska, 174 deaths, and 2,497 recoveries

Nursing Homes

The virus has taken an especially harsh toll on long-term care facilities. They account for more than half of all COVID-19 related fatalities. The state is still investigating the cause of death in some cases but has confirmed 87 deaths in long-term care facilities linked to COVID-19.

As of data from Thursday, May 28, there are 107 impacted assisted living facilities and nursing homes. At those 107 facilities, 478 residents have tested positive along with 356 staff members. Of those combined 834 cases, there have been 87 deaths, all residents. Three other deaths are still pending verification.

Earlier this month, Nebraska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gary Anthone, commented on the fact that high-risk individuals make up a majority of the deaths in Nebraska.

“As a doctor, I know how precious life is,” he said. “My take is that Nebraska is doing well, even though every life is precious and every death is a tragedy, but having a higher percentage of high-risk patients dying is probably a good statistic for the state. It means the lower-risk patients are not dying.”

Recoveries

The Department of Health and Human Services still is not tracking COVID-19 recoveries, however, more than half of the local county health districts are. Here at 10/11, we’ve compiled the data, and it’s rising quickly.

There are 12 out of 19 health districts tracking recoveries. In order to count as a recovery, according to the CDC, a person needs two negative tests or to be 28 days symptom free. Since 95 percent of all cases never wind up with hospital stays, rarely are people being re-tested. Most of the recoveries need the four week timeframe to be counted.

Douglas: 845

East Central: 430

Sarpy/Cass: 364

South Heartland: 218

Elkhorn Logan Valley: 184

Lancaster: 163

Four Corners: 85

Panhandle: 75

Loup Basin: 54

West Central: 37

North Central: 18

Southwest: 14

Total Recoveries: 2,497

Counties Included: 65/93

COVID-19 Deaths

So far, the virus has killed 174 Nebraskans. It has a fatality rate of about 1.28 percent among lab-confirmed cases. We had been tracking deaths by age, however the details reported by county health departments and DHHS has become increasingly scarce. With too many variables, we can no longer track age-specific data.

On Friday, we did learn from DHHS that 87 percent of all fatalities are in people 60 or older.

With 41 deaths, Hall County (Grand Island) accounts for just less than one-fourth of all fatalities in Nebraska. Douglas County is second with 37 deaths, Dakota County is third with 24 deaths, and Hamilton County is fourth with 12 deaths.

10/11 NOW has been tracking COVID-19 deaths and how underlying conditions are playing a role. However, it's difficult to get concrete information because counties are reporting the data differently. Some counties are tying every death to underlying health problems, others aren’t reporting the data.

Lincoln and Lancaster County

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez says it’s too early to predict whether the area has reached its peak, but says the health care system capacity has always been healthy.

As of Friday, May 29, there were 34 COVID-19 patients in Lincoln hospitals, including 22 Lancaster County residents. Of the 34, 12 are on ventilators.

Daily growth has certainly slowed over the last week, though some of that can likely be attributed to the Memorial Day weekend.

May 23-29 = 143 or 20 cases per day

May 16-22 = 298 or 43 cases per day

May 9-15 = 188 or 27 cases per day

May 2-8 = 266 or 38 cases per day

April 25-May 1 = 24 cases per day

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird has pointed to ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘deeply troubling’ racial statistics. Of Lincoln’s 1,176 lab-confirmed cases, more than 59 percent identify as either Asian or Hispanic. Even though they make up more than half our cases, they only account for 11 percent of our population.

Race // % of Population // % of COVID-19

White: 85.6% // 30.1%

Black: 3.9% // 7.5%

Asian: 4.0% // 30.8%

Hispanic: 7.2% // 28.4%

“This data now makes clear that racial and ethnic disparities and health outcomes in Lincoln that have long existed are becoming more pronounced as a result of this virus,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said earlier in May.

Thanks to the diligent work of the county’s 27 contact tracers, they’ve been able to identify at least four clusters in the city.

Smithfield (Crete): 319 (185 employees)

Smithfield (LNK): 27 (19 employees)

Smart Chicken (LNK): 27 (18 employees)

Universal Cold Storage (LNK): 31 (24 employees)

The cases at Universal Cold Storage, which has identified COVID-19 at both of its Lincoln locations, are tied to the cases at Smithfield in Crete. The health department says many of the people from Smithfield live with people who work at Universal.

Per Capita Data

In order to understand the magnitude of COVID-19 in a county or community, it’s important to account for population. While Douglas and Lancaster counties have the first and fourth ranked number of cases, they rank 12th and 20th when you factor in per capita data.

Dakota County, which has only 20,026 people, has 1,654 cases. In other words, about one in every 12 people in the county has tested positive for COVID-19, or about 8 percent. That’s the second highest total in the U.S.

There are seven counties in Nebraska where at least 1 percent of the population has tested positive for COVID-19. They include Dakota, Colfax, Dawson, Saline, Hall, Platte, and Lincoln counties.

County // Cases // % of population // Rank (93)

Dakota: 1,654 // 8.3% // 1

Colfax: 612 // 5.7% // 2

Dawson: 851 // 3.6% // 3

Saline: 498 // 3.5% // 4

Hall: 1,507 // 2.5% // 5

Douglas: 3,955 // 0.69% // 12

Lancaster: 1,176 // 0.37% // 20

Meatpacking Plants

Every county at the top of the list is there because of cases at meatpacking plants. Though, nearly all of these areas have leveled out with the number of newly identified daily cases declining.

The State isn’t tracking data at specific plants, but as of May 28, the total number of meatpacking plant cases in the state was 2,985, with 11 deaths and 138 hospitalizations.

Here's a look at how the total number of cases in several counties has changed in the last two months:

County // April 1 // April 15 // May 1 // May 15 // May 29

Hall (JBS): 16 // 278 // 1,111 // 1,409 // 1,507

Adams: (JBS): 6 // 65 // 187 // 246 // 268

Dakota (Tyson): 0 // 3 // 942 // 1,507 // 1,654

Saline (Smithfield): 0 // 1 // 194 // 403 // 498

Lancaster (Smithfield): 9 // 59 // 281 // 735 // 1,176

Colfax (Cargill): 0 // 4 // 116 // 481 // 612

Platte (Cargill): 2 // 6 // 110 // 426 // 560

Dawson (Tyson): 1 // 21 // 503 // 778 // 851

Madison (Tyson): 3 // 7 // 132 // 281 // 313

Nebraska: 218 // 984 // 5,042 // 9,772 // 13,654

Deaths: 5 // 21 // 75 // 124 // 174

Nebraska Testing Data

Testing has increased dramatically since this time last month, in large part due to Test Nebraska. The program has been up and running at several cities across Nebraska for the past few weeks. According to data from Gov. Ricketts, Test Nebraska is about halfway to its goal of testing 3,000 Nebraskans per day.

Examining the positivity rate is another way to check if the status of COVID-19 in the state. That rate has been steadily decreasing throughout the month of May. For example, on April 1, a total of 5.7 percent of all tests were coming back positive. By May 8, the overall positivity rate had increased to 18.1 percent, but now it’s back down to 13.9 percent.

Let’s look at how the average number of daily tests has changed since early March (keep in mind this week will be off because of the holiday).

May 23-29: 18,600 // Average: 2,657 p/day

May 16-22: 20,400 // Average: 2,914 p/day

May 9-15: 16,400 // Average: 2,342 p/day

May 2-8: 13,500 // Average: 1,923 p/day

April 25-May 1: 9,700 // Average: 1,385 p/day

April 18-24: 6,505 // Average: 929 p/day

April 11-17: 4,281 // Average: 611 p/day

April 1-10: 6,091 // Average: 609 p/day

March 9-31: 3,170 // Average: 138 p/day

Since Start: 99,158 Nebraskans Tested

Overall Rate: 13.9%

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