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LINCOLN – As of March 3, the latest statewide total of COVID-19 cases is 201,608. There have been 37 COVID-19-related deaths in Nebraska reported in the last seven days, for a total of 2,091. To date, a total of 155,933 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 156 COVID-19 patients a day over the last seven days. Daily 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 261, compared to 291 daily cases last week. 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.
Dr. Gary Anthone, chief medical officer and director of the Division of Public Health for DHHS, has said that Nebraskans are making good progress in helping limit the spread of COVID-19 in the last few months, which has helped reduce the pressure on our health care community. While Nebraska's vaccination effort moves forward and more Nebraskans become protected each week, limiting opportunities for the virus to spread is still critical in our everyday lives. Wearing a mask, washing hands, and staying home when you're sick remain our best defenses against COVID-19.
Dr. Anthone's prediction about COVID-19 variants coming to Nebraska have been confirmed; the B.1.1.7, variant identified in the United Kingdom, and the B.1.429 variant first found in California, have been identified in several counties. All available vaccines, including the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine which will arrive in Nebraska next week, are effective against these variants. Officials continue to urge Nebraskans to keep up their defenses and to continue to be tested if they are exposed or develop COVID symptoms. Anyone who has not completed vaccinations and may have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine.
Nebraskans can be #BigRedResponsible by wearing a mask. Additionally, watching your distance, washing hands often, staying home when you're sick, and avoiding the 3 Cs (crowded places, close contact with others, and confined spaces) are still critical to limiting infection.
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.
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
DHHS is aware that medical conditions can increase a patient's risk of poor outcome from COVID-19. When the state moves into Phase 2A, it will ensure that up to 10% of the weekly allocation is allotted for Nebraskans with high-risk medical conditions, regardless of age. The decision of who receives those doses will be made by the medical community. The state will not be determining who is eligible based on medical conditions. The medical community will identify the appropriate individuals and work with local health departments to schedule their vaccinations. At minimum, 90% of doses in Phase 2A will go to Nebraskans age 50-64.
Approximately 5,700 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 33 sites eligible to vaccinate Nebraskans 65 years and older.
This week, Nebraska is receiving 42,400 first doses, which includes both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, 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. There is also a total of 37,120 second doses coming to Nebraska this week.
The third vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, gained Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires just one shot. It is approved for use in individuals 18 years and older. The vaccine started shipping today and Nebraska will receive 15,500 doses for the month of March, with the allocations still to be determined.
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.
Those receiving their first dose are reminded to keep their vaccination record card in a safe place and take it to their second dose appointment.
Nebraskans are reminded a second vaccine dose is needed to complete vaccination (except in the case of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine), 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.
A phase three clinical trial showed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had 85% efficacy in the U.S. at preventing any severity of COVID-19 (while being studied in regions with new variant strains of COVID-19), and only requires one dose. Comparatively, the flu vaccine is generally 40 to 60% effective. Each of these three authorized COVID-19 vaccines had 100% efficacy against COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths. Since each of these COVID-19 vaccines work extremely well against the virus, individuals should feel confident they are reducing their risk when they choose to vaccinate. Moreover, every person who gets vaccinated is doing their part to help reduce spread and put an end to this global pandemic.
Answers to these and other questions are available on the COVID-19 Vaccine Information page and are available in several languages.
If you haven't registered yet, please register now. There is a Spanish translation site on the website; users can access this by selecting Español from the language drop-down menu at the top-right side of the page. Be safe. Get vaccinated. Finish Strong!
Finish Strong Nebraska is the state's official COVID-19 vaccination campaign, designed to keep the public motivated and informed on the vaccine. For more information and to register on the vaccine portal, visit FinishStrong.Ne.Gov. Once registered on the portal, Nebraska residents will be notified when COVID-19 vaccination begins in their area.
COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available to the public and it is expected to be late spring before mass vaccination begins.
DHHS continues to share new information via the Coronavirus website, as well as Facebook and Twitter and at virtual town halls. Each week, members of the DHHS team hold a mid-day Facebook Live session to discuss vaccine-related and pandemic-related topics.
The Division of Public Health's Becky Wisell and Dan Taylor will discuss long-term care visitation updates for families of facility residents at 12 pm CST on Thursday, March 4. For those unable to watch live, all sessions are archived and available on the video tab of the DHHS Facebook page and DHHS's website.
Online Town Halls this week include:
Saturday, March 6, at 11:30 am
Town Hall with Restoring Dignity Omaha
This town hall will be held with a refugee support organization called “Restoring Dignity" that will focus on the Karen refugee population. The event will be in the Karen language. To join, visit the Restoring Dignity Omaha Facebook page, www.facebook.com/RestoringDignityOmaha. Panelists will be Hannah Wyble, executive director of Restoring Dignity; Dr. Maureen Tierney, chair of the Department of Clinical Research at Creighton University's School of Medicine; Dr. Adi Pour, health director for Douglas County; and Josie Rodriguez, administrator for Health Disparities and Health Equity from DHHS.
As of Tuesday, March 2, more than 447,849 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 priority groups throughout Nebraska, with more than 84,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered just last week. More than 152,000 or 10.3% of Nebraskans 18 or older have completed vaccination.
To follow Nebraska's COVID-19 vaccination progress, please visit the COVID-19 Vaccination dashboard.
Dashboard Updates for the week of March 8
The DHHS data team in its continued efforts to provide accurate and timely information has made several notable changes to the COVID-19 vaccination dashboard. Changes of note to occur by next week are as follows:
On the “Overview" tab, the Federal Retail and Long Term Care Vaccination Program header will now read “Federal Pharmacy Vaccine Programs" as all programs (long-term care, retail pharmacy, etc.) will now be included.
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. Visit vaccinate.ne.gov and select Español from the language drop-down menu at the top-right side of the page.
As of March 1, more than 220,409 Nebraskans have registered for the vaccine.
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.
Those who are 18 to 64 with a high-risk medical condition and live outside of Lancaster County are asked to register using the state site to help ensure proper prioritization.
The state continues to add innovative technology to support the fight against COVID-19. New selection and scheduling software is being implemented with providers across the state. Registrants will be selected according the state priority phases for their turn to get the vaccine. Those selected will get an email with a unique personalized link that allows them to select a vaccine clinic within their local public health department area and an appointment time at that clinic. After making their appointment, they will receive a confirmation email with a QR code that can be used to speed the check-in process at the vaccination clinic.
Those who entered a friend's email will have their emails sent to that friend's email address where they can again be assisted, this time to make their appointment. If the state's email address was used in your registration, either the state or your local public health department will contact you to help you make your appointment.
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.
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.