DHHS COVID-19 Weekly Update

News Release
For Immediate Release: 3/31/2021

Khalilah LeGrand, (402) 471-9313, 


LINCOLN – As of Tuesday, the latest statewide total of COVID-19 cases is 209,346.

After weeks of decline followed by a steady plateau, coronavirus cases are rising again in the United States. In Nebraska, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that newly reported cases are steady but rose 9% for the week of March 16-29. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 230 new cases per day on March 13 to 291 new cases per day this past Saturday.

To date, a total of 162,560 Nebraskans testing positive for COVID-19 have recovered. The total number of COVID-19-related deaths reported in Nebraska is 2,180.   

COVID-19 hospitalizations increased slightly and there are currently 116 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19.  Nebraska hospitals cared for an average of 106 COVID-19 patients a day over the last seven days. Daily averages in prior weeks were 121, 124, and 139 COVID-19 patients. Since November 2020, COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped almost 90%.

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

 ​March 9
March 16
March 23
​March 30

Total positive cases203,587
Current hospitalizations131
Total deaths2,120

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 COVID-19 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.  A total of 103 of these variants of concern have been identified in the state. To date, 70 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, 31 cases of the B1.429 variant, and 2 of the P1 variant have been identified in Nebraska. All available vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna and the new Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine, appear to be effective against these variants.

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

Nebraskans are encouraged to Finish Strong and do their part to end the pandemic by registering 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.

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

As of Monday, April 5, the entire state will move to Phase 2B, which includes all Nebraskans age 16-49. This does not mean that every health district will immediately be able to vaccinate any adult.  Some local health departments may choose to begin Phase 2B by prioritizing according to age within the phase (for example, by starting with only those persons 40 years of age and older).

Currently most health districts are in in Phase 2A, which allows those Nebraskans aged 50 and older to be vaccinated. 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.

Since March 31, 248,715 doses have been received through the CDCs Federal Vaccine Program in Nebraska.  These doses are distributed throughout the state at 135 sites.  DHHS is allocating doses via an existing 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 135 sites across Nebraska receive vaccine shipments.

For the week ending April 4, Nebraska is again receiving 88,280 total doses of both Pfizer and Moderna; there are no shipments of Johnson and Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals expected this week.

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 of the Pfizer or Moderna are reminded to keep their vaccination record card in a safe place and take it to their second dose appointment.  The Johnson and Johnson vaccine requires just one dose. 

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 and Johnson and Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccines are 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.

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

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.

Tony Green, DHHS Director of Developmental Disabilities, and Karoly Mirnics, Director and Hattie B. Munroe Professor for the Munroe-Meyer Institute for Genetics and Rehabilitation, will be the guests on the Facebook Live session tomorrow at 12:15.  They will discuss and promote the vaccination event for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) that will be occurring in Omaha on Friday, as well as the specific challenges individuals with IDD have faced during the pandemic and why it is important for them to receive the vaccine.

A vaccine clinic for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their caregivers will be held in Omaha at CHI Center Hall A, 455 N 10th Street on Friday from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Registration is required. Please park in lot B.  Nebraska DHHS is partnering with the Munroe-Meyer Institute, CHI Health Center, and Community Pharmacy to hold this clinic.

Registration is open and closes Thursday, April 1 at 3:00 PM. Individuals can register here. Registration link: https://gretnahealth.com/product/developmentally-disabled-covid-19-​vaccine/

There are 1,000 appointments available and time slots are first come, first served.  Registrants will receive their first dose on April 2. They will receive their second dose during the same time slot on April 27.

Individuals with IDD are at a higher risk of COVID-19. Researchers estimate that adults with Down syndrome are almost five times more likely to die from COVID-19. In addition, isolation during the pandemic has been especially hard on individuals with special needs since community participation and inclusion is vital to their development.

Vaccination events in other regions of Nebraska for the IDD community are currently in the planning process and will be announced soon.

On Saturday April 3, at 4:00 p.m., the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will be partnering with the Karen Society of Nebraska for an online town hall where health officials and medical experts can answer questions from the Karen community about the COVID-19 vaccine and hear their concerns.  The town hall will be in the Karen language. Click on the ZOOM link to attend:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89629516381.  Meeting ID: 896 2951 6381


Vaccine Dashboard

As of Tuesday, more than 845,231 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 334,750 Nebraskans have completed vaccination. That number translates to 22.6% of those over 16 years of age to be fully vaccinated.  

As part of our efforts to continually improve our COVID-19 dashboard, in February a data quality team was established to assess our COVID-19 case information. Through the team's initial work, they identified COVID-19 test codes that were missing from our database. As new COVID-19 tests were added, these new codes had not been included. Over the course of 11 months, these newly created codes accounted for about 1.46% of positive cases and 0.37% of total COVID tests. These positive cases and tests will be added to the DHHS COVID-19 case dashboard in the coming days.

This afternoon, the first scheduled dashboard maintenance occurred from 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

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

As of March 30, more than 336,296 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 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 again been updated to provide clarity as more Nebraskans complete vaccination and recover from COVID-19.

Updates include information about the removal of targeted age groups and critical infrastructure worker criteria for Federal Retail Pharmacy participants, allowing vaccination of anyone 18 and older.  The new DHM will have the Federal Retail Pharmacy participants use the state designated COVID-19 vaccine registration and scheduling system, which must be in effect by April 1.

While this means that pharmacies are eligible to begin vaccinating those 18 and older, this does not mean that all of them are indeed vaccinating or even scheduling as yet.  Every pharmacy will work within their own corporate structure to determine their priority groups. It is important to note that the Federal Retail pharmacy Program is coordinated and managed by those pharmacies in the state who have signed up and been approved by the federal government.  The state does not manage allocations nor does it determine when those allocations are ordered.  

It is strongly encouraged that people look for other pharmacies (even outside of their jurisdiction) that may be vaccinating in their age group.  It continues to be stressed that vaccination phases are unique to each jurisdiction, and/or to each provider as Nebraska continues to rollout and create schedules based on availability.

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 

Survey link

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