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Lincoln – The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Nebraska Public Health Lab (NPHL) have confirmed that the New York variant of COVID-19, known as B1.526 has arrived in the state. The initial case has been identified as a Douglas County resident. An investigation is underway and ongoing. The identified B1.526 variant has been spreading throughout the United States, specifically in the Northeast, and is still being studied to determine the level of contagiousness and severity. Testing platforms like Test Nebraska and others will still produce a “positive" result for the identified B1.526 variant (and other variants). It is expected that vaccinations will remain effective.
Nebraska's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone said, “We have continued to stress that Nebraskans cannot let up on our mitigation efforts and testing remains critical against not only the spread, but preventing another major surge of COVID-19 cases. As these variants continue to be discovered in the state, vaccinations, testing, masking, and distancing remain the best defenses we have in this fight. I strongly encourage that individuals continue to get tested, especially if they have symptoms and have not yet been vaccinated."
As researchers learn more about this and other variants it remains as important as ever to continue masking, distancing, and avoiding the 3Cs. Get a test if you're exposed or if you develop symptoms. Register now at vaccinate.ne.gov and get the vaccine when it's offered to you to help Nebraska FinishStrong.
DHHS and 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.
Nebraska's top goal remains protecting hospital capacity. The efforts undertaken by the state over the course of the emergency have resulted in significantly lower hospitalizations as compared to the last several months.
Nebraska continues to move through Phase 2B, which means anyone in the state 16 and older can get vaccinated. There are several options available. Residents can register at vaccinate.ne.gov, or with a local health district, interested individuals can also check with area pharmacies that may be scheduling appointments. Scheduling vaccination as soon as possible will help Nebraska Finish Strong!
To-date about 29% of Nebraskans are fully vaccinated. To schedule an appointment visit vaccinate.ne.gov. 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. 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.