The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) announced today that the COVID-19 Risk Dial at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov will remain at low-orange for a second consecutive week. On the color-coded dial, red represents "severe," the highest risk of COVID-19 spread, and green represents the lowest risk. The dial is usually updated every Friday.
Although the risk of the virus spreading in Lincoln remains high, Health Director Pat Lopez said key indicators are headed in the right direction. The average number of daily cases was up to 48 in mid-July, and since the Directed Health Measure (DHM) with the mask mandate went into effect July 20, there has not been a continued increase. The positivity rate has also shown a decline - from a high of 8.4 percent the week ending July 25 to 7.2 percent last week and around 6.4 percent so far this week.
"The bottom line is that we are seeing fewer infections," Lopez said. "This does suggest that the Directed Health Measure (DHM) and increased use of face coverings has contributed to this decline. However, more data is needed to identify the relationship between mask wearing and the probability of infection. We need at least one more full week of data to ascertain the effects of the face covering DHM."
The position of the Risk Dial is based on multiple local indicators and information from the previous three weeks. More information on the metrics used by LLCHD is now posted online just below the Dial. Lopez updated five of the key factors they consider:
Case numbers. The number of weekly cases peaked at 361 the week ending July 25. It declined to 310 cases last week, and so far this week, 167 new cases have been reported.
Positivity rate. The average weekly positivity rate went from 4.8 percent in June to 7.3 percent in July. The high was 8.3 percent the week ending July 25. Last week the rate was down to 7.2 percent, and the rate so far this week is 5.9 percent.
Contact tracing capacity. LLCHD currently has more than sufficient capacity to do investigations, and is able to keep pace with demand. Nursing staff initiates contact tracing and attempts to reach out to close contacts of positive cases within 24 hours of receiving the lab result. Lopez said the turn-around time to receive test results has fluctuated from week to week depending on the regional and national demand for testing. She said delays in receiving lab results impacts the ability to provide education to those who have tested positive and delays the start of contact tracing, which is important in identifying clusters and stopping outbreaks. Lopez said that this week so far, the average turnaround time is about three days.
Hospital capacity. There was a slight increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU bed use over the past two weeks. The number of hospitalizations increased from nine July 5 to 22 earlier this week. Today the hospitals report 15 COVID patients.
Testing capacity. Over 48,000 Lancaster County residents have been tested for COVID-19 in Lancaster County, and 8,600 of those were tested in the last two weeks.
To start the testing process, visit BryanHealth.com, CHIHealth.com or TestNebraska.com. To be tested, you must have an appointment. Test Nebraska has expanded testing to six days a week, and this testing is free, with no billing to insurance. The Test Nebraska site is now at Gateway, near the former site of Younkers.
The current Directed Health Measure (DHM) went into effect July 20 and remains in effect through August 31. It requires all individuals age five and older to wear a face covering when they are in an indoor space that is open to the public unless six feet of separation from others at all times can be achieved. The DHM also requires business owners to ensure their patrons age five and older wear face coverings any time they cannot maintain six feet of separation with non-household members. More information, including a list of exceptions is available at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov.
The City advises those who observe someone not wearing a mask in public to stay six feet away from the individual and not to call law enforcement emergency or non-emergency numbers. The public can make complaints regarding compliance through the UPLNK app or the website, UPLNK.lincoln.ne.gov. Businesses with specific questions about the face covering requirement can call the Health Department at 402-441-6280.
For more information, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.