The Central District Health Department’s COVID-19 cases have increased in recent weeks, which has caused concern.

Teresa Anderson, health director for CDHD, said the positivity rate “is going up a little bit,” going from 5% a few weeks ago to 7% as of July 17 (the most recent data available as of Wednesday afternoon).

While CDHD’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate is 7%, Anderson said it is exceptionally higher in Hamilton County, where it is at 17%.

“It is up a little bit, but we will keep watching it; we want to stay away from double digits,” she said. “We are going to provide more testing in Hamilton County to see exactly what is going on there with that increased percentage. None of us (counties) have been in double digits since April and May. What we are looking for now is we were at 3% on June 13 and now, two months later, we are at 7%. We would like to see it stay at 5% or lower. That is our goal until we have vaccines.”

Test Nebraska was in Aurora this past Wednesday at East Park Villa, 1704 L St. It will be there again this Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Test Nebraska also will be in Grand Island from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday and from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at Fonner Park.

“We added an extra day and we added 15 more slots per day,” Anderson said. “Rather than doing 40 (tests), we will be able to do 55. Then, we are going to evaluate and see what else we need to do because we probably need to do some testing on the weekends. But in order to do that, we need to find some additional staff.”

She said CDHD is “eager” to get Test Nebraska results back to see exactly where the district’s COVID-19 numbers sit.

As of Friday afternoon, CDHD reports a total of 1,798 cases. Of those numbers, 1,676 are in Hall County, 85 in Hamilton County and 37 in Merrick County.

Additionally, there have been 45 COVID-19 deaths in Hall County, 13 in Hamilton County and none in Merrick County.

From July 17 to July 24, there was an increase of 36 COVID-19 cases. Of these cases, 32 were in Hall County, eight in Hamilton County and one in Merrick County. No additional COVID-19 deaths were reported last week.

This is a far cry from April 24 to April 25 — the largest single-day increase in positive COVID-19 cases — when 106 new positive cases were reported in CDHD’s three-county area.

Anderson said for the past two weeks, CDHD also has tracked COVID-19 recoveries on the dashboard on its website, cdhd.ne.gov.

The dashboard reports 1,619 recoveries along with 58 deaths. With 1,798 total cases, currently there are 121 active COVID-19 cases. The dashboard does not list recovery data by county or town.

“We get a little bit behind on that (tracking recoveries) because it is not necessarily our (top) priority,” Anderson said. “But we are tracking to make that follow-up phone call to see how folks are feeling. It is important because that is a happy point in the data. But we have so many other things that we need to consider, so that sometimes gets a little behind.”

She said CDHD recently introduced a COVID-19 risk dial on the dashboard as well, which was created by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and modified through the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors. Each Nebraska health department now has a risk dial available.

“A lot of factors go into that,” Anderson said in assessing risk. “It includes hospitalization rates, the number of positive cases, availability of tests, the number of ventilators in use, etc. That is all calculated on the back side and then the risk dial shows up.”

The risk dial has CDHD at 1.4 — a moderate level — on Saturday evening. Anderson said this is up slightly from recent weeks when the risk dial was at 1.2.

“On that risk dial, we would not be green (a low level) until we have vaccines, which is tricky,” she said. “If we stay in that 1 zone, it will be good. If we start creeping up into 2 it would not be good.”

Anderson emphasized COVID-19 still is prevalent in the CDHD area and that people need to continue to take precautions, even though the loosened directed health measures have given them a sense of security.

“I think that if you have not been personally impacted by COVID, it is really easy to just go about business as usual,” she said. “If we do that, we are risking not only our health, but that of everyone around us. Our big push right now is, ‘Do this for the people you love and protect them.’”

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