As hospital beds fill up, Omaha-area health experts warn to stay vigilant against COVID-19

Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 4:43 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the midwest are continuing to rise, including in the Omaha metro area.

Numbers from the Douglas County Health Department show 202 people have died in the county, including four who were added to the total Friday.

Nebraska Medicine reports cases and hospitalizations are equal to the peak numbers in May.

“That was a concern that we would have numbers going up in the fall,” said Phil Rooney, resource specialist with the DCHD.

New data shows the virus is racking up big numbers in Nebraska.

However: “We’re not at a crisis point now. Hospitals still have some space and they’re managing it well, our concern is that we get a continuing surge of COVID-19 cases and we get the flu on top of it that could put us into a situation that is concerning," Rooney said.

In the five-county Omaha metro area hospital coalition, there are 343 total ICU beds. As of Friday afternoon, there were only 25 available beds.

That’s 93% of capacity. Statewide, hospitals are at 75% capacity.

Although the virus can spread while outside, colder weather could push hospitals to the brink.

“When it gets cold, people are going to be inside where it’s easily transmitted. It’s people being close to each other, speaking, spreading droplets and that’s how the disease gets spread. The more we have of that, the more likely it is to have increased cases," Rooney explained.

There is a concern in other parts of the state -- Holt County moved its risk dial from “yellow” to “orange” this week as the North Central District Health and Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health departments report case number increases.

To slow the spread, previous recommendations of masks, hand washing, and social distancing remain along with getting a flu shot.

“We don’t want people to be sick with the flu and COVID-19 but the other point with that is we don’t want the hospitals to be overflowing because hospital workers have certainly been overburdened," Rooney said.

Health experts say by taking precautions now, the rate of the virus’s spread could be sharply reduced and we all could come closer to a return to life before COVID-19.

Health officials say if you do plan to hold Husker game-day activities: Remember to mask up, social distance, and regularly clean your hands.

Copyright 2020 WOWT. All rights reserved.

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