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LINCOLN – The latest statewide total of COVID-19 cases is 158,324 as of Dec. 22. There have been 83 COVID-19-related deaths in Nebraska reported in the last seven days, for a total of 1,521. To date, a total of 96,359 Nebraskans testing positive for COVID-19 have recovered.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to come down from recent highs, with Nebraska hospitals caring for an average of 598 people a day over the last seven days, versus averages of 727, 805 and 910 COVID-19 patients in prior weeks.
The daily average of new positive cases has declined in the last week with a daily average of 1,066 cases, compared to 1,180 daily cases last week, and 1,773 and 1,787 cases a day in recent weeks.
Dr. Gary Anthone, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS, said, “COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to come down and we want to keep that trend going.
That's why it is still important to limit our interactions and to be diligent about preventing the spread of COVID-19, especially over the holidays. Viruses spread well in close contact, so staying home if we're sick and getting a test can help ensure we are as safe as possible and help protect our loved ones and friends this holiday season."
Nebraskans are reminded to spread joy, not COVID, this holiday season by wearing a mask, watching your distance, washing hands often, and avoiding the 3Cs – crowded places, close contact with others, and confined spaces – every time you're away from home.
If you are planning to gather over the holidays, getting a COVID-19 test beforehand can help protect someone who might be vulnerable to COVID-19.
Dr. Anthone said, “With the arrival of winter weather, please watch for any new symptoms. If you're not feeling well, but think it's probably a cold, we want you to get tested. Testing appointments are available so we encourage anyone with symptoms and anyone traveling or still planning to see extended family or friends during the holidays to consider getting tested."
Those who host or attend a gathering with people from outside their household are encouraged to remain vigilant in practicing social distancing and to self-monitor for symptoms.
Anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine and get tested. Everyone is encouraged to avoid the three Cs – crowded places, close contact and confined spaces.
In the week following the approval of another COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., more than 15,462 Nebraska hospital, health care and emergency medical services workers received their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
DHHS will launch a COVID-19 vaccine dashboard in the near future that will share a variety of metrics and provide a picture of how vaccinations are progressing in Nebraska over time.
The state expects to receive 86,000 doses of vaccine by the end of 2020, which will be targeted to continue vaccinations for frontline health care personnel, and begin vaccinating residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Shipments will come from Pfizer, as well as Moderna, which received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last week.
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. Neither vaccine contains a live virus and cannot give individuals COVID-19. Two vaccine doses are needed to reach full effectiveness against COVID-19, and the same brand of vaccine must be administered for both doses.
The state's vaccine distribution will follow the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations and will make necessary adjustments as deemed appropriate.
The COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available to the public. The CDC has not announced a date, but it's expected to be spring before sufficient supplies are available to begin mass vaccination. The Nebraska Immunization Program and statewide partners continue their planning for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration.
DHMs to Change on Dec. 24th Due to Decreasing Hospitalizations
A five-phase series of Directed Health Measures (DHMs) remain in effect for the entire state. DHM restrictions are aimed at preserving hospital capacity for urgent medical care as COVID-19 hospitalizations remain elevated.
Today, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced that with less than 15% of hospital beds needed for COVID-19 patients, the state would move to the blue threshold, which is the fourth of the five series of directives. Restrictions will be eased effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 24 and go through Jan. 31, to permit indoor gatherings at 75% capacity.
An outline of the DHMs is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/hmadcuih3j2xlyd/Color-Coded%20%20Phase%20Comparison%2011.13.20.pdf?dl=0.
Test Nebraska, COVID-19 Hotline Holiday Hours
Testing continues to be crucial in the fight to limit COVID-19. Free testing is available to any resident wanting one. Those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who are experiencing any symptoms are encouraged to schedule an appointment at one of the 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, headaches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
Visit Testnebraska.com, or TestNebraska/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 Test Nebraska sites and the Test Nebraska hotline will close at 5 p.m. CT on Christmas Eve and remain closed Christmas Day. Sites will re-open for regularly scheduled hours on Saturday, Dec. 26. Many Test Nebraska sites will remain open on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and there will be no interruption in lab services over both holidays.
Nebraskans seeking information or needing help with general questions can call the DHHS COVID-19 hotline at (402) 552-6645, or toll-free (833) 998-2275. Most days, the hotline is staffed from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. CT.
Due to the Christmas holiday, the DHHS COVID-19 hotline will be closed Thursday and Friday, Dec. 24 to 25, reopening on Saturday, Dec. 26. Over the New Year's holiday, the hotline will be closed Thursday and Friday, Dec. 31 to Jan. 1, and re-open on Saturday, Jan. 2.
Some test sites closed early today due to inclement weather. Those registered should check text messages and email for future closure notifications.
DHHS will continue to share new information via its Coronavirus website, http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.