DHHS COVID-19 Weekly Update

News Release
For Immediate Release: 2/24/2021

Khalilah LeGrand, (402) 471-9313, 


LINCOLN – The latest statewide total of COVID-19 cases is 199,782 as of Feb. 23. There have been 36 COVID-19-related deaths in Nebraska reported in the last seven days, for a total of 2,054. To date, a total of 153,585 Nebraskans testing positive for COVID-19 have recovered.

COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to decline in the last week, with Nebraska hospitals caring for an average of 173 COVID-19 patients a day over the last seven days. Averages in prior weeks were 200, 265, and 322 COVID-19 patients.

The daily average of new positive cases in the last week currently stands at 291, compared to 367 daily cases last week, and 548 and 567 cases a day in recent weeks. Averages for positive cases are now based on test dates instead of lab reporting date, which provides a more precise view of COVID-19 cases. Data from previous days is updated as lab results are received.

Feb. 2Feb. 9Feb. 16​Feb. 23
Total positive cases192,042​
Current hospitalizations 305
Total deaths1,931

Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS, has said, “The State continues to make improvements in our vaccine distribution efforts. With more vaccine coming, we will be able to more quickly move through our current phase. However, we cannot forget that we all play a part in helping the state finish strong. Nebraskans must remain vigilant in limiting opportunities for the virus to spread. Wearing a mask, washing hands, and staying home when you're sick remain our best defenses against COVID-19."

Anyone who has not completed vaccinations and may have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine and get tested.

Nebraskans can be #BigRedResponsible by wearing a mask. Additionally, watching your distance, washing hands often, staying home when you're sick, and avoiding the 3Cs (crowded places, close contact with others, and confined spaces) are still critical to limiting infection.

Vaccine Update

All Nebraska counties are now vaccinating Phase 1B priority groups, which are those 65+ in age.

Local health departments are offering COVID-19 vaccines for Nebraskans 65 and older, and vaccination will expand to other 1B priority groups as supplies allow. Other groups include those working in critical industries including: first responders, educators and daycare providers, those in the utilities and transportation sectors, corrections staff, and those working in food processing and at grocery stores.

Approximately 7,600 doses have been ordered for delivery this week through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Federal Retail Pharmacy Program in Nebraska.  These doses are distributed among 43 sites eligible to vaccinate Nebraskans 65 years and older. 

This week, Nebraska is receiving 37,120 first doses, which includes both Pfizer and Moderna, DHHS is allocating these doses via a vaccine network that includes local health departments, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), community-based clinics, and tribal health care centers across the state. A total of 125 sites across Nebraska receive vaccine shipments.

Nebraska's 19 local health departments are coordinating vaccination for Phase 1 priority groups.

Community clinics with scheduled appointments are the primary way vaccine doses are being given to help ensure all doses can be used in the required timeframe. Community clinics will stagger appointments in order to observe social distancing and provide space for monitoring after vaccination.

Mild side effects like a sore arm and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms with COVID-19 vaccines. While many people will have no symptoms, others may experience headaches, chills or a fever. These side effects are normal and a sign your body is building protection, and you should be feeling better within a few days.

Nebraskans are reminded a second vaccine dose is needed to complete vaccination, which research shows provides the best protection against COVID-19 symptoms and potential complications.

The Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective and the Moderna vaccine 94% effective in phase three clinical trials. Comparatively, the flu vaccine is generally 40 to 60% effective. Two doses are needed to reach full effectiveness against COVID-19, and the same brand of vaccine must be administered for both doses. Thus far, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for those 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine approved for those 18 and older. 

DHHS is compiling answers to frequently asked questions on COVID-19 vaccines, such as:

  • I already had COVID-19. Do I still need the vaccine?
  • How soon after receiving the vaccine am I safe?
  • Does getting the vaccine mean I no longer need a mask?

Answers to these and other questions are available on the Finish Strong Nebraska webpage and are available in several languages.

COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available to the public and it's expected to be late spring before mass vaccination begins.


Vaccine Outreach

There will be three opportunities this week to share information about vaccination.

Thursday, February 25, at 1:15 pm: Facebook Live

A Facebook Live will be presented Thursday, February 25, at 1:15 pm CT with Dr. Gary Anthone and Sara Morgan from the Division of Public Health. They will discuss updated distribution deadlines and increased vaccine allocations.

Thursday, February 25, at 3:30 pm: Bluestem Health

Josie Rodriguez, Health Disparities and Health Equity Administrator, will join medical experts in connection with Bluestem Health for an online discussion tomorrow afternoon, Thursday, Feb. 25, beginning at 3:30 pm CT to connect with the state's Spanish speaking population. The event will have doctors who can answer questions in Spanish and will share information on the safety and importance of COVID-19 vaccines and to hear from the community.


Event number: 187 332 2224

Event password: vaccine

Thursday, February 25, at 7:00 pm: New Era Baptist Convention of Nebraska

DHHS CEO Dannette Smith will join medical experts from CHI Health and community leaders for an online town hall to connect with the New Era Baptist State Convention of Nebraska community tomorrow evening, Thursday, Feb. 25, beginning at 7 pm CT. The event is a forum to share information on the safety and importance of COVID-19 vaccines.

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 883 9427 7558

Passcode: 007704


Vaccine Dashboard

As of Tuesday, more than 362,791doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 priority groups. More than 107,807 or 7.3% of Nebraskans 16 or older have completed vaccination.

To follow Nebraska's COVID-19 vaccination progress, please visit the COVID-19 Vaccination dashboard.

Vaccine Registration

Nebraskans can register online to be notified when COVID-19 vaccination is available in their area, and a Spanish translation of the site is now available. Available at vaccinate.ne.gov, users select Español from the language drop-down menu at the top-right side of the page.

More than 216,800 Nebraskans have registered so far, as of February 24.

Those 65 and older who have registered for vaccination with their local health department do not need to register a second time using the state site. Local health departments and DHHS are working to migrate all registrations. DHHS is still collecting data on high-risk populations when individuals register on the vaccine portal as the State continues to make decisions on prioritization.

Those interested in registering will need to provide name and contact information, date of birth and answer health questions used to help determine priority group eligibility. Any information entered is strictly confidential and used solely for this purpose. Friends, family and caregivers are encouraged to assist others with vaccine sign-up if needed, and the DHHS Information line can assist those with limited technology, language or Internet access, and is available by calling (531) 249-1873 or (833) 998-2275.

Public Health Emergency (PHE) Affecting Nursing Homes and Assisted Livings

Because of the PHE, nursing homes and assisted living communities received an additional $20 per diem per person from May 1 through December 31, 2020. The PHE has been extended, and Nebraska Medicaid is seeking federal approval from CMS to extend this same rate enhancement in the same amount, retroactive from January 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021.


COVID-19 Testing

Testing continues to be crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19. Anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19, anyone experiencing any symptoms, those planning to travel, or those returning from travel are encouraged to schedule a COVID-19 test.

Free testing is available at more than 60 Test Nebraska sites across the state.

COVID-19 symptoms can include a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, tiredness, muscle aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

Visit Testnebraska.com, or TestNebraska.com/es for Spanish, to schedule an appointment. Those with questions about testing, or who need help completing the online assessment, can call the Test Nebraska hotline at (402) 207-9377.


Directed Health Measures

As vaccination continues, Directed Health Measures (DHMs) have been updated to provide clarity as more Nebraskans complete vaccination and recover from COVID-19.

Those who have received both COVID-19 vaccine doses are not required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19. Individuals should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days, and are required to wear a mask when in public. Anyone who later develops symptoms must then quarantine at home.

Those who have recovered from coronavirus within the last three months are not required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19. Wearing a mask is encouraged but not required.

Those who have recovered from coronavirus longer than three months ago are required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

In addition, a five-phase series of DHMs aimed at preserving hospital capacity for urgent medical care remains in effect for the entire state. Currently less than 10% of hospital beds are needed for COVID-19 patients. The state is in the green phase, which removes capacity restrictions for indoor gatherings but it's recommended that Nebraskans continue following guidance to reduce virus transmission. Organizers of events for 500 or more people, or 1,000 people in Douglas County, are required to receive approval from their local health department. Capacity restrictions remain in place for Lancaster County.

An outline of DHMs tied to Nebraska's COVID-19 hospitalization rate is available here.

DHHS continues to share new information via its Coronavirus website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Most weeks, members of the DHHS Immunization team hold a mid-day Facebook Live session to discuss vaccine-related topics and provide an update on vaccine distribution in Nebraska. All sessions are archived and available on the video tab of the DHHS Facebook page.

In addition, the DHHS COVID-19 information line is available to answer questions at (531) 249-1873 or (833) 998-2275. The line is staffed seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.

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