Nebraska’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations were up again last week, indicating that the delta surge that began over the summer has not yet lost its sting.
The state reported 5,316 new cases for the week ending Friday, up from 3,100 the previous week, according to a World-Herald analysis of federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
However, the data picture is less than crystal clear: Roughly 600 of the new cases appear to have occurred the previous week, but the reporting of them was delayed. Even adjusting for that reporting discrepancy, Nebraska’s case growth appears to be among the top five among the states as new cases nationwide continue to fall.
If the increase holds, it will interrupt a slow, four-week-long decline in cases.
One clearer sign that cases are rising: Hospitalizations also ticked up last week, from an average of 369 a day to 375. New daily admissions were up more sharply, from 41 a day to 50.
CDC data indicated that 402 Nebraskans were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday. That was up from the 379 coronavirus patients listed as hospitalized on the state’s hospital capacity dashboard Tuesday. The figure still was short of the recent peak of 448 hospitalized on Sept. 20.
The state now updates its dashboard weekly rather than daily. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the change Oct. 21, attributing it to the fact that hospitalizations due to the coronavirus had dropped below 10% of the state’s total staffed hospital beds, a threshold he had set in September.
In mid-August, the state listed 4,146 staffed adult and pediatric medical/surgical and intensive care beds, based on a 14-day average.
Dr. Bob Rauner, president of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln, said the big question is whether Nebraska’s COVID cases will drop to a low level, as in Italy, or rebound again, as they have in the United Kingdom.
“Our approach is more like that of the United Kingdom, so we need statewide data that most states other than Nebraska have on their state dashboards to know if this is happening,” he said. “Taking down the dashboard again right now is a big mistake and could put us at risk of overstretching our hospitals a third time.”
The state also added 37 deaths during the week, bringing the total of confirmed and probable COVID deaths in the state since the pandemic began to 2,975. Total cases as of Friday stood at 284,766, according to the CDC.
Looking more broadly, the state now has seen roughly 4,000 to 5,000 cases every week since mid-August, with most of those cases continuing to occur among the unvaccinated.
The state administered 48,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine last week, the most in any week since the spring. It appears that almost three-quarters of those shots were boosters given to those who were previously vaccinated.
Nebraska continues to be below average in vaccinations. Some 56.2% of the population is fully vaccinated; the national rate is 58%.
The state still rates well in vaccinating those 65 and older. The 89% of that age group that is fully vaccinated is the 14th-highest among states. In addition, 28% of Nebraskans 65 and older have received a booster shot, the 11th-best rate in the nation. In all, Nebraska has administered more than 2 million shots, including 123,000 boosters.