Surge In COVID-19 Cases In County

By Gordon Hopkins
Last week, Public Health Solutions (PHS) reported a surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Jefferson County. According to a statement issued Friday by PHS, “Currently, thirteen (13) cases have been identified using rapid antigen testing. Confirmatory PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing and variant sequencing will be completed early next week.”
PHS also noted, “At this time, the health department advises individuals who live, work, or travel to Jefferson County and surrounding areas to take extra precautions while in public. These precautions would include wearing a mask if planning to be in groups of people with no ability to social distance, and avoiding large crowds if you are at high risk for serious illness. As more information is available through contact tracing, there may be other areas of the district experiencing an increase in positive cases associated with this outbreak. PHS is working in partnership with Jefferson County Health & Life (JCH&L) to quickly test and identify positive cases so that they can begin isolation or quarantine according to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines. PHS has received only one report of serious illness requiring hospitalization associated with this outbreak.”
Delta Variant
The Delta variant of COVID-19 was first identified in India and is known as B.167.2. Delta is more contagious than some other variants and has caused a spike in COVID-19 infections in the U.S. The first case of the Delta variant in Nebraska was recently identified in Saunders County. Since that time, the CDC announced the Delta variant was the dominant variant in the United States, meaning it more than 50 percent of new cases are a result of the Delta variant.
The first death confirmed to be related to the Delta variant in Nebraska occurred in Lancanster County. The woman, in her 40s, was reported to be fully vaccinated but, according to Scott Holmes, Environmental Public Health Division Manager with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, she had underlying health conditions that put her at a greater risk for severe illness.
PHS Health Director Kim Showalter said, “Fully vaccinated individuals have a level of protection from COVID-19 but those at high risk for serious illness should consider taking extra precautions right now, even if you have been fully vaccinated. We won’t know until next week if we are seeing a variant identified in the district but we do know the Delta variant is the predominant strain identified across the state at this time. If you have underlying health conditions that put you at increased risk for severe illness, please consider limiting your exposure to large groups of people right now and wear a mask when in public and unable to social distance.”
JCH&L, Gardenside and Cedarwood
As a result of the increases in cases, both Gardenside Long-Term Care and Cedarwood Assisted Living have canceled all outings for tenants and residents for now. Visitors are still allowed, but all visitors and the tenants and residents they are visiting must remain masked, no matter their vaccination status. Visits must still be scheduled. 
JCH&L continues to require all who enter the facility, including visitors, patients and customers, to be screened and masked. The JCH&L cafeteria is currently open to staff only. The Burkley Fitness Center group fitness classes will return to distancing requirements and instructors will be masked.
Lana Likens, Director of Public Relations for JCH&L, told FJN, “We continue to monitor the outbreak and the community situation.”
Ending the State of Emergency
This recent surge occurs on the heels of Governor Pete Ricketts announcing the end of the pandemic State of Emergency for Nebraska, which expired at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30. In a press conference, Ricketts noted the low hospitalizations and said, “We’ve got to return back to normal.”
The Nebraska Department Of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has shut down its online coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard, which provided infection rates, hospitalizations, death and other COVID-19 related statistics. Public Health Solutions (PHS) has also removed the risk dial and the data dashboard from the PHS website. 
However, Governor Ricketts continues to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
PHS recently said, “With coronavirus variants being identified across the state, PHS urges everyone eligible to become vaccinated. This is the best protection against becoming severely ill if exposed to Covid-19.”

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