COVID cases, hospitalizations pile up again in Nebraska | health and fitness

OMAHA — The arrival of the full summer season is bringing no relief from COVID-19, with cases and hospitalizations picking up again in Nebraska last week.

Nebraska reported 3,535 new virus cases for the week ended Friday, up from 3,474 last week and 2,752 the week before, according to an analysis of data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospitalizations in Nebraska averaged 168 for the week, up 11% from 151 the previous week. As of Friday, 186 Nebraskans were hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number since early March.

Nebraska also reported three new deaths for the week, bringing the total number of confirmed or probable deaths to 4,345. A little over half a million positive tests have been recorded in Nebraska since the pandemic began.

Although there has been some weekly fluctuation, last week’s case count continues a trend of steadily increasing cases in Nebraska that began in mid-April.

While fewer test results are being reported publicly due to the increased use of home testing, the current case count is higher than the same time for each of the past two summers.

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The state experienced significant lulls over those two summers before the virus surged in the fall. According to the latest data on the state’s respiratory dashboard, the state recorded 3,609 positive test results in the week ended July 2. The weekly total for this week last year was 350, 2020 was 1,135.

dr David Quimby, an infectious disease physician at CHI Health, said it’s difficult to predict COVID trends from season to season as new variants emerge.

Preliminary data from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services showed last week that the highly transmissible BA.5 variant is now dominant in Nebraska, as it is in the rest of the nation. The state’s data shows that BA.5, a subvariant of last winter’s Omicron variant that caused a surge, rose from 17% of positive samples genomically sequenced in Nebraska two weeks ago to 45% last week .

“Both in the number of cases and people in hospital, we’re not seeing the same lull as we’ve seen in the last two years,” Quimby said. “When you combine that with the lack of any mitigation measures… (like masking and avoiding gatherings)… there’s no reason to think it’s going to go any lower. If (COVID-19) is going to be something that’s going to happen more often in the fall, we’re expecting a much higher baseline, so we’re likely to have (more disease) this fall.”

Nebraska’s 28% increase in cases over the past two weeks was the sixth-highest nationwide. The state’s surge appears to be part of an upswing in the middle of the country, as North Dakota (second), Kansas (fifth), and South Dakota (10th) also ranked in the top 10 during that period.

Colorado currently has the highest per capita fall rate in the country. Nebraska’s fall rate remains below the national rate and ranks 31st among states.

Quimby urged those who have not yet received their recommended vaccinations and booster shots to keep up to date with vaccinations.

The vaccine continues to offer very good protection against serious infections, which is likely why the state has so many cases but relatively few in the hospital.

Individuals over the age of 50 and some immunocompromised individuals aged 12 and over are currently eligible for two booster shots on top of their original shots. Healthy people between the ages of 5 and 50 are eligible for a booster in addition to their original series. A CDC tool helps people determine when they can get boosters.

“If you haven’t been brought up to the recommended level,” Quimby said, “it is strongly recommended that you get it.”

Pediatricians also encourage parents to vaccinate children as young as 6 months. The vaccine was released for the youngest children last month.

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