Doctors concerned about increase in Nebraska COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations; warns of ‘potential perfect storm’

Experts at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine held a news conference Monday afternoon, Oct. 5, 2020, to...
Experts at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine held a news conference Monday afternoon, Oct. 5, 2020, to address the state's increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 2:46 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Experts at Nebraska Medicine on Monday talked about the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Nebraska.

UNMC and Nebraska Medicine issued a statement to the community on Monday imploring the public to wear face coverings; avoid large gatherings and otherwise practice social distancing; stay home when sick and quarantine at home if coming into contact with someone who tests positive; and to cooperate with public health officials tracking illness and exposure.

“We can’t emphasize this enough: COVID-19 ISN’T a political or ideological issue. Our advice is the same regardless of political leadership at any level,” the statement says.

Calling it “potential perfect storm,” the statement from UNMC/Nebraska Medicine expresses concern for increased exposure as students and staff return to schools, cooler weather drives more people indoors, and the annual flu season approaches.

“To absorb the increasing load of patients, Nebraska is relying on hospitals that are currently more than 85% full, which is a very different scenario than in April and May, when hospitals were 50% full. It is a potential perfect storm.”

In a tweet Monday, President Trump said not to be afraid of COVID-19. Nebraska Medicine and UNMC doctors said in a Monday press conference that recent cases and hospitalization numbers in Nebraska mean you should be.

“This is potentially a perfect storm for Nebraska,” said Dr. John Lowe, UNMC Assistant vise chancellor for health security training.

As Omaha City Council members questioned whether they should extend the mask ordinance Tuesday, local health leaders said now is the time to double down not get lazy.

“I don’t think this is the time to rescind the mask mandate for the city of Omaha. This is the time to expand that mandate throughout the state,” said Dr. Mark Rupp, head of infectious diseases at UNMC.

Doctors at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine are blaming loosening restrictions for a record spike in cases.

“We know how to beat this virus but we’ve gotten complacent. COVID-19 has now killed nearly 500 Nebraskans and more are likely to die if we don’t take immediate action,” Dr. Lowe said.

The doctors said they are constantly learning more about the virus. That includes using an experimental cocktail of drugs to treat it, including some the president took while hospitalized.

“We’re using them in a responsible way in which patients who meet indications are receiving the appropriate medication or we’re giving them in a study situation to fully elucidate how helpful they are and in what population they should be used in,” Dr. Rupp said.

The doctors' take-home point of the news conference: If we don’t slow the spread, we will not have enough hospital spaces this winter.

“We all have the power to slow this down but if people do not change the way we are currently behaving we are not going to have the capacity. The assumption that if you get sick we’ll have a hospital bed for you is false. Lincoln can fill, Omaha can fill, Grand Island can fill all of our hospitals can fill up,” said Dr. Daniel Johnson, chief of critical care at UNMC.

Watch Monday’s news conference

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