Nebraska preparing for COVID-19 vaccination expansion

State adjusting online dashboard, including case report data points
Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 9:10 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Friday that the state is preparing to move its COVID-19 vaccination plan fully into Phase 1B the first week of February, with more details expected next week.

Friday morning’s news conference was the governor’s first since the CDC updated its recommendations to include those ages 65 and older in Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccination plans, which had previously set the age recommendation at age 75.

The state expects to finish Phase 1A vaccinations, covering all long-term care facilities, by the end of January, said Angie Ling, incident commander for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Officials estimated Friday that 75%-80% of healthcare workers in the Lincoln and Omaha metro areas had been vaccinated.

State officials said Nebraska is seeing a slight increase in vaccine allotments, now receiving 11,700 Pfizer and 11,800 Moderna vaccinations weekly. Starting next week, local health departments should begin to receive a consistent amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses each week, Ling said.

Vaccine data on the state’s dashboard does have about a two-week lag, which officials attributed to the fact that some data comes from the federal pharmacy program, which is tracking doses distributed by CVS and Walgreens to long-term care centers.

While some health districts in the state have already moved into Phase 1B, which prioritizes those ages 65 and older as well as those with underlying conditions, Douglas and Lancaster counties are expecting to begin the first week of February. The state is planning to provide more details on Phase 1B next week, particularly during Ricketts’ news conferences scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday and Friday. Ling did say that those who have already registered for the vaccine with their local health department will not need to register again on the state’s website.

VACCINE HOTLINE: Gov. Pete Ricketts has asked Nebraskans to call 402-552-6645 or toll-free at 833-998-2275 for more information on the Nebraska COVID-19 vaccination process. DO NOT call your local health department.

Ling said Friday that the state has distributed about 219,000 COVID-19 vaccinations so far. Officials estimate it will take about four months to vaccinate the 500,000 people in Phase 1B.

The governor also said that COVID-19 hospitalizations were down across the state, accounting for 30% of occupancy. He said that the Nebraska COVID-19 dashboard was down for maintenance earlier this week, resulting in a delay in some data, but that it was caught up.

Ashley Newmyer, chief data strategist for Nebraska’s DHHS, said more changes were coming to the site next Friday, Jan. 29. The dashboard data cycle has also changed, with updates at 9 a.m. that reflecting 24 hours of data ending at midnight the night prior, she said. The state will not issue a COVID-19 update on Thursday to allow for this change to go into effect.

Another change to the dashboard is the origin of all COVID-19 case data. The Nebraska dashboard will adjust all its data and visualizations to reflect the date the specimen was taken rather than the date the lab reported the test result, and there will also be a preliminary data period, Newmyer said.

Ricketts said local health departments are still working out plans for mass distribution of the vaccine, so no location lists are yet available.

Hy-Vee, Kohll’s, and Community Pharmacy will be working to assist with distribution, but the list the state is forming does include some local pharmacies in rural communities as well, Ling said. That list could expand, but in order to implement such agreements with the state, participating pharmacies must be able to connect to Nebraska’s vaccine tracking system software and assure they can properly store the vaccine doses.

The software, selected from one of about a half-dozen considered, will act as a portal for two-way data flow, but for the time being, many local health departments are using the system simply as sign-up sheets, Ling said. The state contracted for the system earlier this month but noted that work on building it began in December, she said.

Watch Friday’s news conference

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