By Gordon Hopkins
Nebraska has begun to see a decline in new reported COVID-19 infections, including in southeast Nebraska. As of press time, Jefferson County has 34 new confirmed positive cases in the last two weeks, according to data from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
This is a change from previous months, which saw a continuing surge in cases. On January 14 of this year, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts issued a new Directed Health Measure (DHM), “The DHM suspends Class C, D, and E inpatient and outpatient surgeries (pre-scheduled, non-emergency medical surgeries) at The Nebraska Medical Center (NMC) in Omaha after the hospital facility chose to begin operating under a crisis standard of care yesterday.”
The DHM took effect January 14 and is scheduled to remain in place through Feb. 7.
While this DHM did not directly refer to Jefferson County, hospital capacity in other parts of the state do have an impact here. Jefferson Community Health and Life does not possess ventilators, so any patient that requires a ventilator, whether because of COVID-19 or another condition, must be transferred to a facility out of the county. Alan Rosenthal Director of Ambulance District 33, recently said that they have been forced to transport patients to such places as Columbus, Norfolk and Kearney because of a lack of availability in Lincoln.
Governor Ricketts has made protecting hospital capacity the cornerstone of his pandemic strategy.
The Nebraska Hospital Association (NHA) held an online meeting in January to discuss hospital capacity. Hospitals throughout the state have reported staffing shortages, a lack of available beds and health care worker burnout.
According to data from DHHS, just 59 percent of eligible individuals (age five and up) in Jefferson County have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, less than the overall state average of 66.64 percent.
By Gordon Hopkins