Local risk of COVID-19 spread remains high

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LINCOLN, Neb. - The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department updated the COVID-19 Risk Dial on Friday to show some improvement. But the color-coded Dial at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov remains in the orange category indicating a “high risk” of the spread of COVID-19. On the Dial, red represents the highest risk of COVID-19 spread, and green represents the lowest. The Dial is updated every Friday.

“We have cautiously moved the dial to the lowest orange level, and we want everyone to understand that this progress can be lost if we let down our guard,” said Health Director Pat Lopez. “You might be one of those asymptomatic people in the community who doesn’t know they are carrying the virus. Your personal actions impact our entire community.”

The Health Department continues to use local and regional data from the past few weeks to determine how high the risk of spread of COVID-19 is in our community. Lopez provided an update on the five key factors:

The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Lancaster County has varied a great deal from day to day partly because of delays in receiving lab reports. However, over a seven-day period, the community has seen an average of 35 new cases reported per day. This has decreased slightly, despite significant increases in testing.

The positivity rate – the overall percentage of all tests that are positive – increased fairly rapidly for six weeks but has dropped slowly each of the last three weeks. The rate has dropped from a high of 9.8 percent on May 11th down to about 8.2 percent today.

Testing capacity has continued to improve. Over 5,000 Lincoln and Lancaster County residents have had tests completed in the past two weeks, and the community is on pace to complete over 3,000 tests this week as well. In addition to Bryan Health and CHI Health St. Elizabeth drive thru testing sites, Test Nebraska has been operating in Lincoln. LLCHD has received over 1,500 test results from Test Nebraska for Lincoln residents so far.

The capacity of LLCHD to conduct investigations and contact tracing has improved. The number of contact tracers has increased to 34, and the department has the ability to add more if needed.

The capacity of the local health system remains healthy. Lopez said the community has seen a leveling in COVID-19 patients in our local hospitals over the past two weeks. This week has stayed fairly steady with around 40 positive patients being hospitalized and 10 to 12 utilizing ventilators.

For each color of risk, LLCHD provides specific recommendations for physical distancing, face covering, hand washing, illness monitoring, and disinfection. Specific guidance is included for people at risk for complications due to COVID-19. LLCHD this week added specific recommendations for businesses on how to operate safely in light of local health conditions. The recommendations have been informed by guidance from national resources, including those produced by Johns Hopkins University, the CDC, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

More information on COVID-19 and the City’s response is available at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov. The website includes information on how those with symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested in Lincoln.