Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today said the COVID-19 Risk Dial remains at elevated orange for a third week, 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.
Seven local residents have died from COVID-19 since Saturday. So far this month, 18 local residents have died from the virus, the highest number of deaths in a one-month period. The 18 deaths are 43 percent of all the deaths reported locally so far.
Health Director Pat Lopez said cases are occurring in all age groups, but older individuals are being impacted now more than at any time during the pandemic.
"Individuals over age 60 are at higher risk of complications from the virus, so the increase in cases in these age groups has resulted in more hospitalizations and more deaths in our community," Lopez said. "Our entire community is being impacted by those who are not wearing masks and who are not practicing physical distancing."
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. Five primary factors are to determine risk:
Number of new cases: So far this week, 573 new cases have been reported. Over the past six weeks, the average weekly number of new cases is 609. Nearly half of the total cases have been reported in the last two months.
Hospitalizations: The average daily number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized increased from 18 in August to 40 in September. So far in October, the average is up to 59.
Positivity rate: So far this week, the average weekly positivity rate is 13.8 percent. The rate has been in the teens for the past eight weeks, indicating that the virus is widespread in the community and the risk of spread is high.
Testing capacity: About 97,000 people have been tested in Lancaster County, and testing remains widely available in the community. So far this week about 4,200 tests have been completed.
Contact tracing capacity and testing turnaround time: While testing remains widely available in the community, the effectiveness of testing is highly dependent on how quickly the laboratory results are provided to LLCHD. The average turnaround time improved at the end of last week, and that improvement has continued into this week. In the two-week period from September 27 to October 10, just 31 percent of lab results were received in two days or less. From October 11 through this week, 64 percent of lab results have been received within two days. Public health nurses are making contact with those testing positive within 24 hours of receiving notification from the State over 90 percent of the time.
For more information, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.