Omaha revises COVID-19 losses to $56 million; county unveils risk-level tool
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - During an update on the local COVID-19 response, Mayor Jean Stothert said Wednesday that the city’s revenue losses due to the cancellation of several high-profile national events were lower than expected.
Also on Wednesday, Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said positive cases are increasing among the younger population, and she unveiled a new risk dial to give residents a weekly snapshot of the status of COVID-19 in the county.
The city has revised the estimate of the revenue lost due to the cancellation of several high-profile national events, such as from $82-$84 million to closer to $56 million, she said, noting that CARES Act funding doesn’t cover those losses.
Omaha’s economy took a huge hit after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the College World Series, the annual Berkshire-Hathaway shareholders meeting, the Olympic swim trials, and more.
As of today, there’s no formal agreement with the county or the state as to how much CARES Act funding the city will be receiving, Stothert said. The city will submit their losses and COVID-19 expenses to FEMA first, then try for funding from Douglas County and the state of Nebraska, she said.
“I still have to be cautious with the budget,” the mayor said.
Stothert said she the city has already cut about $16 million from the budget.
Omaha libraries will remain closed at least until the city knows more about its share of the CARES Act funds, she said. The city’s hiring and purchasing will remain frozen as well.
Omaha Finance Director Steve Curtiss said at Wednesday’s update that as of April, the city’s sales tax income is trending about 10% lower than it was at that time last year.
County COVID-19 case update
The mayor also gave an update on the status of Omaha first-responders who have tested positive for COVID-19:
- Omaha Fire reported 21 confirmed cases; all but one are back on duty.
- A total of 19 Omaha Police officers tested positive; four are in isolation.
Stothert said all 114 lifeguards assigned to city pools will be tested. Five Omaha pools opened to the public last Wednesday.
Dr. Pour said the county has reported 7,775 positive cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s out of 67,568 tested, or 11.8% of the population, which she said is a “good number.”
The 534 positive COVID-19 cases reported last week amounts to a 7.8% positivity rate, she said. Cases increase or decrease based on the number of reports coming in, she said, noting that those numbers are the lowest reported since May 1.
Pour gave a racial breakdown of the case numbers, reporting that reports of positive cases are holding steady among Douglas County’s Asian and Black populations, 13% and 9% respectively; decreasing among Hispanics, down from a previous high of 54% to 48% currently; but increasing among the whites population, at 25%, up from 17%.
She said cases are increasing among the county’s younger population. Positive cases among those age 19 or younger were up 6% to 19%, which might be due to more people crowding into indoor areas like bars, or in some cases are related to softball or basketball teams.
Pour reported the following percentage of positive COVID-19 cases for each age group:
- 56% of the county’s cases are among those age 34 and younger, up 9%
- 14% of cases are among those ages 34-44, down 3%
- 14% of cases are among those ages 45-54, also down 3%
- 9% of cases are ages 55-64, down 2%
- 7% of cases are ages 64 and older, down 1%
Pour said it was important to do social distancing and mask-wearing, even during sports. The potential exposure is much less, she said, and may reduce the impact by preventing the entire team from having to quarantine.
Community and contact exposures are at the same level, she said, meaning that of the positive cases in the county, and equal number contracted COVID-19 from a known contact as from community exposure.
But travel exposure is increasing and is now up to 4%, an increase of 2%, she said.
Hospitalizations are down, too, Pour said. As of today, the county has 86 COVID-19 patients, 16 of them on ventilators, she said. At its highest point, the county had 163 patients with 49 on ventilators.
Pour said the county has a 78% occupancy of medical beds, meaning there are 309 medical surge beds available; there are also 119 ICU beds available for adults and 7 pediatric beds available.
She said 55% of cases have recovered, “that means we follow up with them, and they are telling us that their symptoms have really diminished and are gone.”
The county reported its 100th COVID-19 death today, Pour said. The first death reported here on March 27, she said, which amounts to about one death per day since the pandemic was first reported in Douglas County.
“I remember the first death,” she said. “It was like a family member of mine. I never would have hoped we would reach 100 deaths.”
The local death rate is at 1.3% — slightly lower than the state’s level of 1.4%, she said.
The demographics of the county’s COVID-19 deaths haven’t changed much, Pour said.
- About 73% are 65 years old.
- 60% are white; 20% are Hispanic; 15% are Black; 4% Asian
- 9% have no underlying illnesses.
She said 40% cases are related to a cluster, which is defined as two or more cases. The county has 315 clusters:
- 47 are construction-related
- 35 are in long-term care facilities, reporting 471 positive cases and 55 deaths
- 29 are in food-processing, with 1,370 cases reported
About face masks
Both she and the mayor also weighed in on the Omaha Public Schools fall reopening plan indicating they were comfortable with the mask requirements and smaller class sizes.
Pour said that should a student test positive, the health department would want to know — in order to respond appropriately — whether everyone in the class was wearing a mask and whether the class ever left the room to go to lunch, for example.
She said her primary concern was to open schools in a safe manner and that she doesn’t anticipate 2021 being a normal year for the health department.
Stothert pointed out that only the governor can mandate masks, and that she would support such a requirement if Gov. Pete Ricketts put it in place; but noted that such a mandate would then require police to enforce it.
New risk dial
The county is also launching a risk dial — red being high risk, and green being low — which will be adjusted each Monday morning, Pour said.
Factors that will determine the dial measure are:
- current positivity rate
- number of cases
- number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients
- number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on ventilators
- community spread percentage
- testing availability
- how quickly % of contact investigations are able to be conducted within 24 hours
Test Nebraska opened a test site at noon Tuesday at Crossroads; that site is expected to remain open at least through the end of the month. Tests are conducted 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
After some supply issues, Nebraska Medicine will reopen its site on 50th Street from 8 a.m. to noon Sunday and then 1-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-noon Sundays.
Further testing is also available for Charles Drew Health Center patients, Pour said.
“Usually when they call (Charles Drew) in the morning, they are able to get in in the afternoon; if they call in the afternoon, they should be able to get a test the next morning,” she said.
6 News Reporter Brian Mastre contributed to this report.
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