The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) announced today that the COVID-19 Risk Dial at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov has moved to the yellow level for the first time since July 2, indicating that the risk of the virus spreading in the community is now moderate. The dial had been at the low orange level indicating high risk for the last three weeks. 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.
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 all five primary factors the Health Department uses to determine the risk have shown some improvement.
New cases: The number of weekly cases has decreased 57 percent the last three weeks, from 360 the week ending July 25 to 155 the week ending August 15. So far this week, 136 new cases have been reported. The seven-day rolling daily average also shows a steady decline from an average of 44 daily cases August 1 to an average of 17 daily cases through August 19.
Positivity rate: The average weekly positivity rate has also dropped for three consecutive weeks, from 8.3 percent the week ending July 25 to 5.6 percent the week ending August 15. So far this week, the positivity rate is about 6 percent.
Testing capacity: So far, more than 54,000 people have been tested in Lancaster County, and testing remains widely available in the community. The number of weekly tests has declined from about 4,300 tests the week ending August 1 to about 2,800 the week ending August 15. So far this week, about 2,200 people have been tested. Lopez said the decreased testing could be linked to the mask mandate which remains in effect. She said contact tracers are seeing fewer people being considered close contacts because they are wearing face coverings. That means fewer people are being recommended for testing if no symptoms develop. Lopez said test numbers are expected to increase with testing now available on college campuses.
Contact tracing capacity: With the average number of daily cases declining, the case load for the nurses doing case investigations has decreased. Lopez said this has helped nurses to initiate contract tracing even sooner. Over the past three weeks, 94 percent of all positive test investigations were completed within 24 hours.
Over the past three weeks, 81 percent of all test results were received within three days or less. Lopez said the Health Department would like to see all test results returned within 24 hours so that nurses can begin the follow up with those who have tested positive.
Hospital capacity: Lincoln's hospital capacity remains healthy. The number of COVID patients has decreased from 22 on August 4 to 14 patients reported today. Lopez said the overall hospital count and ICU bed use have been increasing recently. ICU bed availability has dipped just below 50 percent, which has not happened since late May.
For more information, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.