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2020 Media Releases


Date:
July 10, 2020
Media Contact:
Patricia Lopez, RN, MSN, Interim Health Director, 402-441-8093

Risk of COVID-19 Spread in Community is Now High

Cases continue to rise for under 40 age group

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) announced today that the COVID-19 Risk Dial at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov has moved from yellow to orange, indicating that the risk has gone from moderate to high. It is the first time the risk has increased since the dial was introduced in May. On the color-coded dial, red represents the highest risk of COVID-19 spread, and green represents the lowest. The dial is usually updated every Friday.

Interim Health Director Pat Lopez said LLCHD is increasingly concerned with the number of new cases, the positivity rate, and the delay in getting testing results, which reduces the ability to do effective contact tracing.

"This is an important signal that we must get more committed to our efforts to fight this virus. It's not only important, it's urgent," said Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird. "If we want schools to open in the fall, if we want businesses to resume operations, if we want to watch Husker football and volleyball and other fall sports, we have to make it happen by practicing the three W's: wash your hands, wear a face covering and watch your distance by staying at least six feet from others."

The change from yellow to orange also lowers capacity at some City facilities. Lincoln City Libraries will now operate at 25 percent capacity instead of 50 percent, and visits are limited to one hour. Capacity at public pools is reduced from 35 percent to 25 percent. Spectators at Densmore Field will not be allowed to sit in the bleachers. Changes to services are updated at the "City and County Services" page at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov.

At the orange level, the public guidelines includes the following recommendations:

LLCHD uses five key factors to determine the local COVID-19 Risk Dial position:

  1. Case numbers. From July 5 through today, 167 new cases have been reported, and Lopez said LLCHD expects to end the week with the highest number of weekly cases since late May. Lopez said health officials are especially concerned that the vast majority of new cases are due to broad community spread and are not tied to a large cluster of cases from an event or workplace exposure.

    Lopez said another concern is the increased number of new cases being reported for those under age 40. Since restrictions eased June 22, 70 percent of all the cases reported are individuals under age 40, and 57 percent of the cases are individuals between the ages of 20 and 39. "Unfortunately, we are seeing new cases occurring because young people are takin the virus home, spreading it to their parents, other family members and possibly to grandparents in some cases," she said.

  2. Positivity rate. After remaining fairly steady for several weeks, the weekly positivity rate has increased the last two weeks – up to 7 percent last week and to 7.5 percent so far this week. These are levels not seen since late May. This trend is slowly affecting the overall positivity rate which went up again today to 6.6 percent.
  3. Testing capacity. Local testing capacity remains steady, with about 2,500 tests completed over the past 6 weeks. A total of 30,911 individual Lancaster County residents have now been tested.
  4. Contact tracing capacity. Health Department currently has 34 contact tracers available to conduct case investigations. With a full case load, this would be enough to investigate up to 120 new cases within 24 hours. This capacity is more than sufficient at this time and has kept pace with demand.

    Lopez said LLCHD is concerned that that turn-around times for lab are 5 to 7 days in many cases. She said slow turn-around times from labs cause delays in starting the crucial process of contact tracing to prevent further outbreaks.

  5. Hospital capacity. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized is also beginning to increase. The number has increased from 9 last Friday to 15 today. Lopez said officials expect the increase in the number of overall cases to increase the number of patients needing hospitalization over the next two weeks.

More information on COVID-19, the City's response, the latest Directed Health Measures for Lancaster County, and testing is available at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov.


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