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ATTENTION: Questions from the public about vaccines can be directed to the COVID-19 information line at (531) 249-1873 or (833) 998-2275. Please visit your local health department's website for more information on how vaccination is proceeding in your area.
State reaches over 50% in fully vaccinated residents
LINCOLN – The Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 1,368 new COVID-19 cases this week, compared to 1,397 last week, a 2% decrease. The daily average of new positive cases in the last week was 195. Cumulative hospitalizations in Nebraska due to COVID-19 number are at 6,596; more men than women have been hospitalized to date; the age range of 65-74 has the highest cumulative hospitalized cases (22%).
Variants continue to increase in the state. To date, a total of 875 variants of concern have been identified. Of that total, there are 764 cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant (U.K.), which is more contagious than the original strain of coronavirus and is the most dominant strain in the U.S. Other variants present in Nebraska are 87 cases of the B.1.427/429 variant (CA), 6 of the B1.526 variant (NY), 6 cases of the B.1.351 variant (South Africa) and 12 cases of the P.1 variant (Brazil).
Testing platforms like Test Nebraska and others will still produce a positive result for the identified variants. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) have been working to increase sequencing capabilities within the state. Higher volumes of in-state sequencing began in January and NPHL currently has capacity to sequence more than 100 specimens per week. Creighton University is also sequencing roughly 100 specimens per week.
Although caution is required because of many of the unknowns surrounding the new variant strains, vaccines remain the greatest hope for returning to normal. Widespread vaccinations can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19. As of Monday, roughly 58% of US adults, or 46% of the total population, had received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The more people get vaccinated, the fewer opportunities the virus has not only to transmit but to further mutate. Mutations are fueling some of the spikes around the country, including the dominant coronavirus variant in the U.S., the B.1.1.7 variant (UK), which is more contagious than earlier strains and hits younger people harder. The pace of coronavirus vaccinations in Nebraska has slowed significantly over the past month; 49,016 vaccine doses were administered in Nebraska last week.
Nebraskans are reminded that precaution is the best defense against COVID-19 until you are vaccinated. 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. However, school-aged individuals (5-18) can follow the state's self-monitoring requirements.
Nebraskans are encouraged to Finish Strong and do their part to end the pandemic by registering for the vaccine. Anyone 12 and older can now get vaccinated. There are several options available. Register at Vaccinate.Ne.Gov, or with your local health district, or check with area pharmacies that may be scheduling appointments. 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 state's website; users can access this by selecting Español from the language drop-down menu at the top-right side of the page.
Testing continues to be available to help limit the spread of COVID-19. 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.
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.
For the week ending May 16, Nebraska is scheduled to receive 56,160 total doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 41,920 total doses of the Moderna vaccine. No doses are scheduled to be received of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine, which has been cleared to be distributed in the US.
Any potential adverse reactions to vaccines should be reported into the CDC's vaccine adverse events reporting system (VAERS, https://vaers.hhs.gov/). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) permits reporting of protected health information to public health authorities including the CDC and Federal Drug Administration (FDA). ACIP continues to provide oversight and updates on safety in all available vaccines.
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 vaccines are reminded to keep their vaccination record card in a safe place and take it to their second dose appointment. The Johnson and Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine requires just one dose.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses 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 12 and older, and the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccines are approved for those 18 and older.
Per CDC definition, as of today, DHHS has identified 380 possible vaccine breakthroughs among Nebraska residents, which include individuals with positive tests 14 days or more after completing a vaccination series. Out of the 740,608 Nebraskans fully vaccinated, this represents just 0.0005 (0.05%), indicating the vaccine is working for more than 99% of people who receive it. There is confidence in 146 of these individuals, for whom genomic sequencing was successful thereby suggesting a high level of virus was present in the specimen they provided. Variants of concern represent 129 (88%) of the 146 that have been successfully sequenced; nine of these 146 have been hospitalized, and one has died. Answers to these and other questions are available on the COVID-19 Vaccine Information page and are available in several languages.
The CDC is reporting 9,245 vaccine breakthroughs nationally out of 116 million Americans fully-vaccinated, this represents 0.00008 or 0.008% of fully vaccinated individuals.
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.
Pediatricians are concerned about the challenge of getting children up to date on their childhood vaccines, and balancing that with scheduling potential COVID-19 shots. The CDC recommends leaving two weeks between other vaccines and getting the COVID-19 vaccine, as there has been a decline in routine immunizations since the start of the pandemic. Parents are being urged to get their children caught up on immunizations as younger children could soon be eligible as well to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met today to advise the CDC on whether to recommend use of the vaccine in the 12-15 age group; As of late this afternoon the state has approved local health departments and other vaccine providers in the state's network to administer vaccine to those 12-15 years of age. The systems previously put into place already serve as a solid framework for implementation. Nebraska continues to stress to all residents the need to get vaccinated as soon as possible so that the most vulnerable can be protected in order to stay healthy.
DHHS continues to share new information via the Coronavirus website, as well as Facebook and Twitter and at virtual town halls. Members of the DHHS team hold regular 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 the DHHS website.
As of Tuesday, more than 1,563,317 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to Nebraskans throughout the state, according to DHHS. Additionally, over 747,369 Nebraskans are fully vaccinated. That number translates to 50.4% of those over 16 years of age. To follow Nebraska's COVID-19 vaccination progress, please visit the COVID-19 Vaccination dashboard.
Also, as of this coming weekend, the COVID Case and Vaccination Dashboards will only be updated Monday through Friday. Monday's totals will contain the weekend data.
These numbers include all vaccinations that took place in Nebraska last week, including through federal entities, such as the Indian Health Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program is coordinated and managed by the CDC and those participating pharmacies in the state that have signed up and been approved by the federal government. For more on the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, visit the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/retail-pharmacy-program/participating-pharmacies.html.
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 today, more than 382,784 Nebraskans, with an average age of 51.3, 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 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) continue to be updated to provide clarity as more Nebraskans complete vaccination and recover from COVID-19.
Through May 31, 2021, the DHM has removed the requirement that indoor venues holding large indoor gatherings must submit a plan to their applicable local public health department. Adherence to guidance for large indoor gatherings is strongly recommended.
School-aged individuals, defined as persons who are 5 to18 years old, are no longer ordered to quarantine at home if they come into close contact with a person who is infected with COVID-19. School-aged individuals now move to the self-monitor category which requires that they monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. They should wear a facial covering and physically distance from persons who are not members of their household. Allowing school aged individuals to self-monitor in lieu of at home quarantine was already allowed for students exposed during school-related extracurricular activities, but as the end of the school year nears, this option is now allowed for all students
A DHM is in effect regarding those who have completed antibody tests. Unvaccinated individuals who test positive for antibodies are not required to quarantine if it's within 3 months of the completed antibody test. However, those who experience symptoms of COVID-19 are still required to quarantine.
In addition, a five-phase series of DHMs aimed at preserving hospital capacity for urgent medical care remains in effect for the entire state. The state is in the green phase, which removes capacity restrictions for indoor gatherings, but it is recommended that Nebraskans continue following guidance to reduce virus transmission according to their local health departments.
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.