(Nebraska City) – Nebraska City and Otoe County residents should not let their guard down when it comes to COVID-19.
That’s the message from health experts speaking at Monday afternoon’s Nebraska City Board of Health meeting. Grant Brueggeman is executive director of the Southeast District Health Department. Brueggeman says 2,158 total COVID cases have been recorded in the five-county district, which includes Otoe, Nemaha, Pawnee, Richardson and Johnson counties. Eight hundred-95 cases were from Otoe County alone, including 378 in the past 30 days. Brueggeman also notes an upward trend in deaths, from five to 16 total in the district in the past few weeks.
“Those are deaths that we have confirmed through DHHS,” said Brueggeman. “There are a few individuals we are monitoring, or waiting for confirmed deaths to come through. So, that number will continue to climb as those death certificates are confirmed.”
Brueggeman says COVID cases in the district surged before the Thanksgiving weekend.
“The week coming after Thanksgiving, I think we had a total of 150 cases across the district,” he said. “The week ending Saturday, we had jumped up to 243 cases. So, a slight upward trend again, compared to where we were a week before, and we’ll see what that trend looks like here in a couple of weeks, especially after the Thanksgiving holiday, and see how that impacts the disease morbidity here in the district.”
Dr. Dan Defreece is president of CHI Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Nebraska City. Defreece says hospitals in the CHI system have seen a decline in the number of COVID cases, and hospitalizations. But, Defreece expresses mixed emotions.
“Good news – I’m happy about it, said Defreece. “But, I’m concerned we’re going to have a little bit of a ‘well, things are better, right? I’ll let off on my masks and distancing stuff.’ That is absolutely not true. Maybe some of the things we’re doing are working, and we still don’t know if we’ve seen the brunt of Thanksgiving yet — either this week or next week.”
Defreece says the expected vaccines are just part of a continuing mitigation effort against the virus.
“It’s still going to require facemask wearing, hand washing, distancing, in addition to the vaccine to get us through this,” he said. “So, I just want to make sure and make that point, that the vaccine does not in any way preclude things that we’ve been promoting and doing. It just aids the process of getting rid of this virus.”
While Nebraska is expected to receive its first shipments of a coronavirus vaccine in three weeks, it’s unclear how much Otoe County will receive.