DHHS COVID-19 Weekly Update

News Release
For Immediate Release: 3/24/2021

Khalilah LeGrand, (402) 471-9313, 

​LINCOLN – As of Tuesday, the latest statewide total of COVID-19 cases is 206,939.

To date, a total of 159,163 Nebraskans testing positive for COVID-19 have recovered. The total number of COVID-19-related deaths reported in Nebraska is 2,150.   

To put a national perspective around numbers, the U.S. death toll from coronavirus has surpassed 539,000, in a recent monthly report, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) indicated that in January 2021, COVID-19 became the leading cause of death. It is 50% higher than the next leading cause, which is heart disease (2,000) followed by cancer (1,600). According to the CDC, the US death rate rose 15% in 2020 due to the pandemic, making it the deadliest year in recorded U.S. history.

COVID-19 hospitalizations, which had ticked upward slightly last week, are continuing to head downward, and is currently at 109.  Nebraska hospitals cared for an average of 121 COVID-19 patients a day over the last seven days. Daily averages in prior weeks were 124, 139, and 156 COVID-19 patients.

Widespread vaccinations can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. All approved vaccines have been shown to 100% prevent hospitalization related to COVID-19. The daily average of new positive cases in the last week currently stands at 246, compared to 232 daily cases last week. Averages for positive cases are now based on test dates instead of lab reporting dates, which provides a more precise view of COVID-19 cases. Data from previous days is updated as lab results are received.

 March 2
March 9
March 16
March 23
Total positive cases201,608
Current hospitalizations150
Total deaths2,091

Nebraskans are reminded that basic precautions are the best defense against COVID-19 while vaccine supplies still are limited. You 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 – remain critical to preventing infection and controlling spread.  Officials continue to urge Nebraskans to be tested if they are exposed or develop COVID symptoms.  Anyone who is not fully vaccinated and may have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine.

The state has confirmed the presence of three variant strains: the B.1.1.7 variant that was originally identified in the United Kingdom, the B.1.429 variant that first surfaced in California, and the P1 variant from Brazil.  All available vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna and the new Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine, appear to be effective against these variants. To date, 34 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, 24 cases of the B1.429 variant, and 2 of the P1 variant have been identified in Nebraska.

Nebraskans are encouraged to Finish Strong and do their part to end the pandemic and register for the vaccine. Those registered will be alerted when a vaccine is available in their priority group and health district. There is a Spanish translation site for the vaccine portal 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!

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, and has remained steady; rapid tests may be available for a fee at some medical walk-in centers.

COVID-19 symptoms can include 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.  Those infected with any variant will show these same symptoms. Severity of a B117 variant infection appears to be elevated compared to normal strains, based on international hospitalization and mortality data.    

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.

Vaccine Update

The entire state moves into Phase 2A this week, which are those aged 50 and older.  As has been previously indicated, up to 10% of the weekly allocation will be allotted for high-risk medical conditions, regardless of age. The medical community will make the decision of who will be vaccinated with these doses.  The additional 90% will go to those aged 50-59 years of age.

All Nebraska counties have finished or are in the process of finishing up with vaccinating Phase 1B priority groups, those 65+ in age.  Nebraska's 19 local health departments are coordinating vaccination for these groups, including 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.

While the prioritization has changed, but an age-based focus remains, officials are aware that medical conditions can still pose a significant impact to those who contract COVID-19.

To date, 194,905 doses have been received through the CDCs Federal Vaccine Program in Nebraska.  These doses are distributed throughout the state at 135 sites.  For the week ending March 28, Nebraska is receiving 88,280 total doses of both Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson/Janssen​ Pharmaceuticals combined, 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. 

The State has coordinated and scheduled Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine allocations to go to Phase 1C groups the week of March 29th.  Phase 1C includes Nebraskans in congregate living settings such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters. The population of Nebraskans in the 50-64 age range is approximately 350,000.  To date, 26% of this age group has been vaccinated, or about 90,000 Nebraskans.

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.

There have been no documented cases in Nebraska of anyone getting the disease after being fully vaccinated.

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. 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/Janssen Pharmaceutical 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 works 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.

Although caution is required because of many the many unknowns surrounding the new variant strains, vaccines remain the greatest hope for returning to normal.

Answers to these and other questions are available on the COVID-19 Vaccine​ Information page and are available in several languages.

COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available to all of the general public and it's expected to be late April or early May before mass vaccination begins, but factors such as supply will dictate any exact date.

The CDC considers a person to be fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final second dose, or in the case of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine, two weeks after their single dose.  Officials also said people who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine if exposed to a COVID-19 case and may opt out of COVID-19 testing if they do not experience any symptoms. 


Vaccine Outreach

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. 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.

This Facebook Live will be Thursday, March 25, at noon.  The month of March is “Women's Health Month" and this Facebook live will be focused on women and how they can maintain and improve their mental and physical health and well-being.  Guests will be CEO Dannette Smith and Dr. Jessica Heckman.

There will be a town hall this Thursday, March 25, at 6:00 PM. Nebraska DHHS is partnering with Telemundo Nebraska for a televised town hall in Spanish. It can be viewed live on Telemundo Nebraska TV, listened to on Radio Lobo 97.7 and or by streaming the presentation on lobo977.com. It will also be streamed live on their Facebook page here: https://fb.me/e/4gjxdRcJ8.  Panelists will be Dr. Armando de Alba from UNMC; CEO Dannette Smith, DHHS; Dr. Josué Gutiérrez, Family Medicine Specialist; Josie Rodriguez, Health Equity Administrator DHHS; Diana Acero, Douglas County Health Dept.; and moderator Marina Rosado, Telemundo.


Vaccine Dashboard

As of Tuesday, more than 814,142 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to Nebraskans throughout the state, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), with more than 106,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered again last week.  Additionally, as of Sunday over 277,294 Nebraskans have completed vaccination, the 9th highest rate in the country. That number translates to 18.7% of those over 16 years of age to be fully vaccinated.   

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

The summary of vaccination information on the dashboard has been moved to a more prominent position at the top of the screen, and now shows the number of Nebraskans that have been fully vaccinated. Also, the “Daily Vaccinations" tab has been revised to show the daily progression of vaccinations from those that are partially vaccinated (completed one dose of a two dose series) to those that are fully vaccinated (completed a two dose series OR has received the single dose vaccine).


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 should select Español from the language drop-down menu at the top-right side of the page.

As of March 23, more than 308,197 Nebraskans have registered for the vaccine. 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.

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.

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.


Directed Health Measures

As vaccination continues, Directed Health Measures (DHMs) have recently been updated to provide clarity as more Nebraskans complete vaccination and recover from COVID-19. These new DHMs went into effect March 16 and will continue until April 30.

These DHMs require the Federal Retail Pharmacy participants to coordinate vaccine schedules with their local health department or until they are using the state's vaccine registration and administration system, which they must be using by April 1. They may continue to vaccinate healthcare workers, critical infrastructure workers, individuals 65 years and older and in some regions, if the state department of health has authorized, individuals 50 years and older.

All COVID-19 vaccine providers must use the state-designated vaccine registration and administration system by April 1. 

The requirement for 're-opening plans' for large outdoor gatherings has been removed and added clarification that this requirement is for indoor gatherings only.

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.

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.


Infection Control Learning Needs Assessment for Healthcare Workers in Nebraska

Nebraska Infection Control Assessment and Promotion Program (ICAP), in collaboration with Nebraska DHHS and the CDC, are working on a Project Firstline training initiative to bring infection control training to healthcare workers.  To meet the training needs of healthcare workers in the State of Nebraska, the ICAP team has developed an Infection Control Needs Survey.  The survey will take about 5 minutes to complete and will help the ICAP team customize the type of trainings that would be the most effective and beneficial for frontline healthcare workers.  This survey will be open for completion until Monday, April 5, 2021 and we value your participation.

The short infection control survey can be found at the following link or by scanning the QR code that is below: https://redcap.nebraskamed.com/surveys/?s=K3Y4XYJPKR ​

QR Code Infection Control Needs Survey

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