Top doctor: Rising cases of COVID-19 in Douglas County could mean trouble

Dr. Rupp: “We need to just knuckle down and continue these precautions.”
Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 10:53 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A top infectious diseases doctor is warning the recent bump in COVID cases in Douglas County needs to be taken seriously, despite a low number of related hospitalizations and no recorded deaths in the past eight days.

“We know that the hospitalizations and deaths is very much a lagging indicator,” said Dr. Mark Rupp, Chief of UNMC Division of Infectious Diseases. “I hope very much that the increasing number of cases won’t be reflected week from now with increased hospitalization and deaths, but that’s the trend we usually see.”

He’s urging people not to ignore the most recent rise in cases in Douglas County, which has seen an increase over the past week in the number of people ages 20-39 testing positive increase by 58%; for those ages 40-59, the increase was 64%.

“People should be very aware and focused on this because it may well indicate we’re starting to see the increased transmission of the variants,” said Dr. Rupp. “Now these variants are likely to be more transmissible and there’s some indicators that they may be more severe.”

Dr. Rupp urged that “when people have the opportunity to get the vaccine, be sure to do it. Everyone should be ponying up and getting the vaccine just as soon as it’s available to them.”

Meanwhile, those administering the vaccine are working to keep up. Hy-Vee is on the hunt for several hundred pharmacy technicians to help dole out the shots across Iowa and Nebraska.

“We’re constantly hiring and as we receive increases in allocation that tells us, ‘OK, that’s how many more appointments we can open up, and how many more people we need’,” said Christina Gayman, with Hy-Vee. “If it’s not completely with techs, we can also hire nurses, and we’ve had success doing that in both states so far.”

And while more and more people are getting the shot, Dr. Rupp is reminding people there’s still a long way to go.

“The vast majority of Nebraskans have neither received the vaccine nor been sick with COVID, so there’s a huge pool of people who continue to be susceptible,” said Dr. Rupp, noting mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing as important as ever.

“We need to just knuckle down and continue these precautions for maybe another month or two and if everyone’s doing the right thing I think we’re going to be in a much better place this summer,” said Rupp. “If we don’t and we relax too quickly and too broadly, it’s very, very likely we’re going to buy some trouble.”

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