Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today announced that the local Directed Health Measure (DHM) that was put in place through August 31 will remain in effect through September 30. The COVID-19 Risk Dial at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov has moved from upper yellow to low orange, indicating that the risk of the virus spreading in the community has increased from moderate to high. 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.
"With our data moving us back to the high risk level of our Dial, with schools back in session, and with activities and events increasing, we must remain committed to wearing masks, washing our hands, and staying at least six feet away from others if we want to keep making forward progress," said Mayor Gaylor Baird.
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 posted online just below the Dial. Health Director Pat Lopez said several of the five primary factors used to determine the risk have shown some regression:
New cases: After three consecutive weeks of declines, we went from 154 cases the week ending August 15, to 171 the week ending August 22. So far this week, 251 new cases have been reported, an increase of 47 percent over last week. For the week ending August 22, 62 percent of the new cases were in individuals between the ages of 11 and 29. So far this week, 114 of this week's 251 new cases are related to UNL.
Health Director Pat Lopez said contact tracing and investigation have not confirmed any in-school transmission at the K through 12 level. LLCHD has also not confirmed any transmission in any of the classroom settings on college campuses.
"What this data tells us is that our educational institutions are doing a great job with the prevention strategies they have implemented in the classroom settings," Lopez said. "Their prevention efforts are similar to all of the mitigation efforts that have been implemented by our businesses and large worksites. The bottom line is that we are not finding large clusters of cases from exposure in classrooms and in the workplace. We are finding transmission with all of the activities outside of school and work."
Positivity rate: The average weekly positivity rate is up from 6.7 percent the week ending August 22 to 10.1 percent so far this week. Lopez said the increase is largely due to the increased testing of college students who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus due to their social activities.
Testing capacity: So far, more than 56,840 people have been tested in Lancaster County, and testing remains widely available in the community. Despite an increase in student testing, Lancaster County went from 4,300 tests the week ending August 1 to just over 2,500 tests the week ending August 22. So far this week, nearly 2,500 people have been tested.
Contact tracing capacity: LLCHD nurses have been able to complete 94 percent of their investigations into positive cases within 24 hours so contact tracing is on target. Lopez said the Health Department would like to see test results coming back within 24 hours, but overall turnaround time for receiving test results has been improving. Over the past three weeks, 80 percent of all testing results were received within three days.
Lopez said recent delays in reporting test results were not caused by the actual lab testing. Because of a technical issue, the data that was entered was unable to be shared. The result was that 46 Lancaster County residents waited seven or more days for their test results. Lopez said the problem appears to be rectified, and the State said no tests were lost, and all data was entered into the system correctly.
Hospital capacity: The number of COVID-19 patients has increased from 15 Sunday, August 23 to 26 today. Over the last two weeks, the overall numbers of hospitalizations in Lincoln has increased, and the ICU bed capacity has dipped below 50 percent.
For more information, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.