A previous version of this release incorrectly stated the DHM was extended to the end of September. The DHM has been extended until the end of October.
Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today announced that the COVID-19 Risk Dial at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov will remain in mid-orange, indicating that the risk of the virus spreading in the community is 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 updated every Friday.
So far this week, 498 new cases have been reported, a new weekly high. Health Director Pat Lopez said the increase in cases are due to students returning to local colleges and universities and increased cases at the State Corrections Department. Of the 153 new cases reported today, the State Penitentiary accounts for 66 cases or 43 percent. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 22 account for 51 of the new cases or 34 percent.
Lopez said in the first three weeks of August, before classes started, only 22 percent of the weekly cases were individuals between the ages of 18 and 22. Since August 23, 55 percent of all new cases have been in that age group.
Lopez said there continues to be no confirmed transmission of the virus in any school or classroom setting at any level of educational institutions in Lancaster County. She said the new cases are due to the increased social activities outside of the school setting.
The number of new cases is one of the five primary factors used to determine the risk of COVID-19 spread. 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. Lopez updated the other four primary factors used to determine risk:
Positivity rate: The average weekly positivity rate has also gone up from 6.8 percent the week ending August 22 to 13.3 percent the week ending September 5. 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: About 65,000 people have been tested in Lancaster County, and testing remains widely available in the community
Contact tracing capacity: Since September 1, 96 percent of the investigations were completed within 24 hours of LLCHD receiving the lab report.
The average turnaround time for receiving test results was up to 3.4 days this week due to a delay in receiving results from the State. This delay in getting results delays the start of the contact tracing process, which is essential in preventing outbreaks and clusters. LLCHD received no testing results for Test Nebraska from Saturday through and Monday and very few results on Tuesday. This caused a backlog of test results that were reported when they were received Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Hospital capacity: The number of COVID patients in Lincoln hospitals today is 27. Hospital capacity and ICU bed availability are impacted by the number of cases in the whole region. This week, the daily ICU bed availability has been about 48 percent.
The local Directed Health Measure (DHM) has been extended to the end of October. Lopez outlined the updates to the DHM that will take effect Monday, September 14:
For more information, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.