Tuesday Nov. 23 COVID-19 update: DCHD raises concerns about pediatric hospital capacity

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 12:36 PM CST
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(WOWT) - Below are today’s vaccination updates as well as data reports on new cases and other COVID-19 stats reported by health officials across Nebraska and western Iowa.

Keep scrolling to find helpful links and other information, including phone numbers to call for help getting signed up for your vaccine.

Omaha Mayor encourages vaccinations

Mayor Jean Stothert said that while she’s less concerned about COVID-19 morbidity and mortality this holiday season than she was last year, thanks to the availability of vaccines, the virus is still top of mind.

“I still very concerned. I’m concerned about all the city employees. I’m concerned about the fire and the police. Of course we are,” she said.

The strain on staff affecting hospital capacity is also concerning, even if it isn’t all about COVID-19, she said. General and elective surgeries are impacted, too.

While any sort of mask rule would have to come from City Council, the mayor said a lot of factors would need to be considered.

“I was never one that liked a mask mandate, but I supported it when the City Council passed it because that was up to them to do that, and we were in a time of a lot of uncertainty. And so I think right now, we just have to be very diligent and watch what happens, and work with the public health director and take action if we need to,” Stothert said.

The mayor also encouraged getting vaccinated against COVID-19, saying she’s been vaccinated and has had a booster.

“The facts are out there. The data is out there. And I think the one thing that people can do to help prevent the spread is to get vaccinated,” she said. “I’m a full believer in vaccinations.”

The misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines does bother her, she said, acknowledging that there are some people who won’t be able to get vaccinated.

“Yeah, there have been some people that have had ill effects after the vaccination. There’s no doubt. There’s been people who have had ill effects after receiving influenza vaccination, too, and people don’t think twice about doing that. Some people do,” she said. “But I think if that tool is out there, and now that we’ve had a period of time that we can see how many people are vaccinated and see how many people did well... I would encourage people to do that. That’s the one thing we call do to stop the spread, and I think we should all do it.”

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert responded to questions about COVID-19 and hospital capacity Tuesday morning, Nov. 23, 2021.

DCHD health director report

Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse told the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the COVID-19 case rates for the county continue to rise. Hitting 253.1 per 100,000 people in the past seven days, that rate is now higher than the previous high point recorded in the “delta wave,” she said.

Dr. Huse encouraged the public to continue to use masks, especially as we approach the holidays and people spend time in crowds — big or small.

“I do not think it’s time to recommend people take their masks off. I think this is an even more crucial time that we pay attention to measures such as that as we’re going into the holidays,” she said. “If your family is all vaccinated, you might be able to do without in a small gathering, but otherwise, masks on is the best way to protect your loved ones.”

CASES: Dr. Huse said cases continue to increase steadily among younger age groups, particularly among school-aged children. Increasing cases have also been reported among ages 30-39, she said, attributing both jumps to school settings, with transmission happening among kids, parents, families, and teachers.

The Douglas County Health Department's COVID-19 dashboard shows the age breakdown of recent...
The Douglas County Health Department's COVID-19 dashboard shows the age breakdown of recent cases in Douglas County in weeks leading up to Nov. 20, 2021.(Douglas County Health Department)

Elkhorn and other west Omaha ZIP codes are also indicating hot spots on the COVID-19 dashboard maps, she said.

VACCINATION BREAKTHROUGH: The percentage of vaccination breakthroughs rose slightly to 1.9%, which Dr. Huse said isn’t surprising as the COVID-19 vaccinations do wear off over time and some aren’t getting their boosters in time.

DEATHS: While the weekly number was not available for Nov. 20, Dr. Huse said deaths reported in recent weeks have been predominantly unvaccinated people.

Dr. Huse confirmed that 80-85% of vaccinated deaths are unvaccinated people, with most of the vaccinated deaths occurring among the elderly.

HOSPITALIZATIONS: There continues to be many days above 90% hospital capacity in the county, and when that happens, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every hospital has 10% of the beds available, Dr. Huse said, again reminding the board that staff are still taking on more patients than they should be, “which is, of course, concerning.”

There’s also been a spike in ICU patients in recent days. Dr. Huse also called attention to the high capacity of pediatric ICUs.

“Suffice to say, we have high community transmission, and our hospitalizations are very much higher than we want to see them and hoping that the community will see that and take seriously that — whether it’s COVID, a heart attack, a car accident — there is very little capacity for care right now,” Dr. Huse said. “And so anything that can be done to control transmission in the community is going to open up hospital beds for those other people in the community who might need it.”

Dr. Maureen Boyle, a Douglas County Commissioner, underscored the struggles that hospitals are facing as they fill up, particularly in rural hospitals that don’t have specialty units to cope with surge patients.

“The staff — there is really honestly a nursing shortage... and not just nurses, it’s really all hospital staff,” she said. “It’s the burnout but also it’s just opportunities for better pay at other places. And so there truly is a huge shortage, and we’re really in crisis mode.”

The ICU numbers at her hospital in particular, she said, are stark when you look at vaccination status: “Yes, there are a lot of vaccinated folks in the hospital. But then you look at ICU numbers... it starts to trend more towards the unvaccinated in the hospital. Then you get the ICU patients on ventilators — most of the time, there’s no one on a ventilator who’s been vaccinated, and those that are (on a ventilator) tend to be young — like 30s, 40s, 50s. So just to make the point: The unvaccinated are at the most risk to end up on a ventilator.”

A lot of the beds are full of RSV patients, and it’s the typical time of year for that, Dr. Huse said. And it’s possible the flu wave this year may look like the RSV wave this year — delayed and spread out over a longer period of time.

Dr. Huse said she expected hospitalizations would remain high through the next few months, maybe through February, unless more of the population gets vaccinated.

Nebraska Medicine was talking about a surge floor, but that still requires staffing, Dr. Huse said. The governor’s office also set up a hospital transfer center to establish a centralized system, but that still requires available capacity and it’s still difficult to find a bed.

“It’s a great idea,” she said. “Unfortunately, all of the regional hospitals are kind of in the same boat... Unfortunately, it all comes down to staffing.”

VACCINATIONS: Dr. Huse said the drive-through clinic, which had been popular — 90 to 100 per clinic, she said — had to close because of the vandalism that was happening there. The health department is looking for sites in north Omaha to replace that location, she said.

Dr. Huse said the number of vaccinated people continues to increase, albeit slowly. She noted that the number of vaccination doses reported on the Douglas County dashboard does include booster vaccination shots.

She said she was hoping to see that number climb as people prepare for the holidays by getting their boosters, or even their first doses. While it’s too late to be fully protected for Thanksgiving, she said, there’s still time to be fully vaccinated for Christmas.

Dr. Huse said she expected the percentage of the fully vaccinated children in the ages 5-11 group to jump soon as those youth receive their second dose in coming weeks. She said the health department was happy to see the strong start to getting pediatric vaccinations administered, and expected those numbers to continue rising.

Some parents and kids are so excited to be vaccinated and be part of the solution, she said, noting that it makes them feel better about being around their friends and their grandparents; but they also see some hesitancy.

“Vaccination status of kids is gonna make a difference,” she said.

DCHD is still focusing a lot of its efforts on getting residents in north and south Omaha vaccinated, Dr. Huse said, noting that it’s likely going to continue to rise at a slow pace as people find their comfort levels with vaccination as times passes and hesitancy wanes.

“While it’s not huge numbers, they are trickling in, and I think that’s just going to be kind of a slow effort, unfortunately,” she said. “We’ll keep talking about it. We’ll keep educating people on this vaccine and how it works and the safety and efficacy of it. We do continue to see misinformation and disinformation in the public around these vaccines, and when we do hear about that, we try to just provide the facts.”

Dr. Huse said that in addition to the vaccination clinics posted on the DCHD website, the health department also has several closed sites at places providing vaccinations for their employees and such.

Watch Dr. Huse’s full report to the board

Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse gives her weekly COVID-19 report to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.

Douglas County update

The Douglas County Health Department on Tuesday confirmed 334 COVID-19 cases in the past day, bringing the local total positive cases reported to 91,893. The latest confirmed cases bring the seven-day average up two to 227 cases — the highest reported since January.

The local death toll stands at 853.

Local hospital capacity stats are updated daily according to staffing levels. As of Monday afternoon, local hospitals were 86% full with 195 beds available, down from 201 a day prior but up from 103 reported Friday. ICU beds were 84% full, with 48 beds available, up from 40 reported a day earlier.

Local hospitals were caring for 22 more patients with COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon, bringing the total number of COVID-19 patients in the county to 246, up from 224 available a day earlier and 215 reported Friday. The number of ICU patients jumped to 84 — six of them pediatric patients — from 75 the day before; 57 patients were reported Friday. Of the current patients, 38 are on ventilators — six more than reported the day prior.

Additionally, three adults are awaiting COVID-19 test results.

DCHD also called attention to the high capacity of pediatric patients in local hospitals. While only six are COVID-19 patients, the health department noted in its report Tuesday that pediatric ICU beds were 91% full as of Monday afternoon with 12 beds available.

Lincoln extends mask mandate

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department on Tuesday announced the mask mandate will be extended through Dec. 23. The mandate had previously been set to expire on Wednesday.

LLCHD reported 126 cases Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases to 44,063.

The local death toll stands at 325.

The health department said there were 100 COVID-19 patients, 17 of them on ventilators.

The Lincoln area has a 61.4% vaccination rate.

Kansas financially protecting workers who refuse COVID shots

(AP) - Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has brushed aside complaints from fellow Democrats about signing a Republican measure aimed at financially protecting workers who refuse to get COVID-19 vaccines.

She declared Tuesday that, in her words, “leadership means seeking compromise.” Kelly acted with unusual speed and signed the bill the afternoon after its passage by the GOP-controlled Legislature just before midnight Monday during a one-day special session.

Kansas is making it easy for workers to claim religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine requirements and promising unemployment benefits to people who are fired after refusing the shots.

The votes Monday night were 24-11 in the Senate and 77-34 in the House.

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Vaccination clinics

Nebraska DHHS

Federal Retail Pharmacy Program: Pharmacies in and near the Omaha-metro area currently participating in the program include:

  • Medicine Man Pharmacy, 15615 Pacific St. Suite 8, Omaha NE 668118
  • ViaRx, 825 N. 90th St., Omaha NE 68114
  • Walmart, 3010 E. 23rd St., Fremont NE 68025

Retail pharmacy vaccine sign-ups: Baker’s | CVS | Hy-Vee | Kohll’s | Kubat | Sam’s Club | Walmart

Douglas County

Below is a list of the Douglas County COVID-19 vaccination clinics scheduled for this week, including child vaccination clinics at area schools. All clinics are open to the public for any approved shot in the vaccination series. Those planning to get a booster shot should bring their vaccination card.

  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Bancroft Elementary School, located at 2724 Riverview Blvd. – Pfizer doses for ages 5+
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Miller Park Elementary School, located 5625 N. 28th Ave. – Pfizer doses for ages 5+
  • Noon-4 p.m. at the Douglas County Health Department, located at 1111 S. 41st St. – All vaccines available.
  • 2-4 p.m. at Thompson Electric Co., located at 3505 S. 61st Ave. – Pfizer doses for ages 18+

DCHD has no clinics planned for the rest of the week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse reminded residents Tuesday that they are also able to get vaccinated at area pharmacies.

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In-home appointments

DCHD is helping those homebound to get vaccinated, scheduling in-home appointments for all three adult vaccination varieties, for any shot in the series.

To arrange this, call the DCHD information helpline at 402-444-3400.

DCHD booster plan

All Douglas County Health Department pop-up clinics will offer only Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccinations, but once Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters are authorized, the health department plans to have all three available at its in-house and drive-through clinics.

Booster shots are recommended for people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and are:

  • ages 65 and older
  • anyone age 18 and older who lives in a long-term care setting
  • anyone age 18 and older who has underlying medical conditions
  • anyone age 18 and older who lives or works in a high-risk setting

The CDC is recommending booster doses be administered six months after receiving your second dose, and has authorized brand crossover for booster shots. Anyone with questions is advised to contact their healthcare provider for further guidance.

Boosters are also recommended for those who received the J&J vaccine at least two months ago, according to the health department.

Those with questions about boosters, particularly those with questions about underlying medical conditions or being in a high-risk setting, are advised to contact their healthcare providers or call the DCHD Information Line at 402-444-3400.

Underlying medical conditions that qualify for boosters include: cancer; chronic kidney disease; chronic lung diseases like COPD, moderate to severe asthma, interstitial lung disease, damaged or scarred lung tissue, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, etc.; certain neurological conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.; diabetes; Down syndrome; certain heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, hypertension; HIV/AIDS or others in immunocompromised states; liver disease like cirrhosis, liver scarring, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, etc.; those who are overweight or obese; pregnant and recently pregnant people who are 42 or more days past the end of their pregnancy; certain hemoglobin disorders like sickle cell disease, thalassemia, etc.; current or former smokers; recipients of organ, blood stem cell, or bone marrow transplants; cerebrovascular disease like stroke, etc.; and substance use disorders including alcohol, opioid, cocaine use disorders, etc.

Those “high-risk” occupations qualifying for boosters include: first-responders such as healthcare workers, firefighters, police, and congregate care staff; education staff such as teachers, support staff, daycare workers; food and agricultural workers; manufacturing workers; corrections workers; U.S. Postal workers; public transit workers; grocery store workers; and residents of homeless shelters or correctional facilities.

OneWorld child vaccination clinics

OneWorld is offering pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations, for children ages 5-11, at the following clinics:

OneWorld will also offer children’s COVID-19 vaccinations at school health centers:

Walk-ins are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis; or you can call 402-734-4110 to make an appointment.

Children’s Hospital

Children’s Hospital is planning to offer dedicated COVID-19 vaccination clinics for about a month, starting by Thursday, Nov. 11 — or sooner, if they are supplied the doses before that.

  • 5-7 p.m. Thursdays at West Village Pointe and Spring Valley offices
  • 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays at West Village Pointe and Spring Valley offices

After Saturday, Dec. 11, pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations will be available by appointment at any Children’s Hospital location.

  • Tuesday and Thursday appointments available at the Mission Village location, 16909 Q St. Call 402-955-7575 or 402-955-SHOT (7468) for available times.
  • Thursday and Friday appointments available at the Dundee location, 4825 Dodge St. Call 402-955-7676 or 402-955-SHOT (7468) for available times.

Nebraska Medicine

Nebraska Medicine is offering COVID-19 vaccinations at clinics in several retail pharmacies and health centers around the Omaha-metro.

NebMed will provide Pfizer vaccinations by appointment at:

For those looking for walk-in appointments, single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccinations will be available at these pharmacies:

  • Outpatient Pharmacy at Bellevue Health Center, located at 25th Street and Highway 370, will offer J&J vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
  • Outpatient Pharmacy at Durham Outpatient Center, located at 45th and Emile streets, will offer J&J vaccinations from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays; and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the weekends.

Sarpy/Cass child vaccination clinics

The Sarpy/Cass Health Department has scheduled vaccination clinics for all COVID-19 vaccine doses, including pediatric doses:

  • 5-7 p.m. at Plattsmouth Middle School, located at 1724 Eighth Ave.
  • 4-6 p.m. at Weeping Water Public Schools, located 204 W. O St.
  • 4-7 p.m. at Gretna Middle School, 11705 S. 216th St.

Appointments are recommended but not required. For scheduling assistance, call 833-998-2275 or 531-249-1873.

Around Omaha

SOUTH OMAHA: Testing and vaccinations available at OneWorld, located at 4920 S. 30th St. Call 402-734-4110 to make an appointment for vaccinating anyone age 12 and older.

CHARLES DREW HEALTH CENTER: Call 402-451-3553 to schedule an appointment.

CHURCH CLINIC: Metropolitan Community Chuch of Omaha will host a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. No ID is required, but a parent or guardian must be present at the clinic with teens ages 12-18.

MCC FORT OMAHA: Vaccinations also will be distributed Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus, located at 5300 N. 30th St. Appointments will be made through the county’s vaccination registry.

TOTAL WELLNESS: DCHD has been working with Total Wellness, located at 9320 H Court, to establish a vaccination clinic from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

VETERANS: Any eligible veterans can go to the Omaha VA Medical Center’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics’ walk-in hours from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at the new Ambulatory Care Center.

Sarpy/Cass health district

The Sarpy/Cass Health Department offers COVID-19 vaccinations at its offices, located at 701 Olson Drive in Papillion:

  • Tuesdays: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Wednesdays: 1-6 p.m.

The health department offers the first and second doses of Pfizer and Modern vaccines, Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) single doses, and booster doses of all three vaccines.

Three Rivers health district

Three Rivers Public Health Department is giving out boosters to those in certain risk categories who have had Pfizer vaccinations. It is also working with area businesses and schools to provide plan more COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

Three pediatric vaccination clinics have been set up for children ages 5-11:

The health department has the necessary forms posted on their website, for minors and adults, for those who would like to fill them out ahead of their visit.

3RPHD’s regular clinics will continue:

  • In Dodge County, the Three Rivers clinic at 2400 N. Lincoln Ave. in Fremont, is open for walk-ins from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday; and noon to 3:30 p.m. Friday.
  • In Saunders County, the Three Rivers clinic in Lake Wanahoo, located at 1320 E. 31st St., is open to walk-ins from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of the month.

Those who are home-bound or require special accommodations but need a COVID-19 test or vaccine can contact the health district at 402-704-2245 to make arrangements.

Off-line help

CHI HEALTH VACCINE INFORMATION: The info line is available at 402-717-1255 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily in August.

NEBRASKA VACCINE HOTLINE: Nebraskans can call 531-249-1873 or toll-free at 833-998-2275 for more information on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination process.

DOUGLAS COUNTY HELPLINE: Local COVID-19 information, in Spanish and English, is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, except for holidays. Call 402-444-3400 for assistance.

IOWA VACCINE HOTLINE: Older or home-bound Iowans looking for help scheduling a COVID-19 vaccination appointment can call 1-866-468-7887 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; or contact Connections Area Agency on Aging at 712-328-2540 or 1-800-432-9209.

Resource links

Where to get a test: Douglas County

Vaccine sign-up: Douglas County | Sarpy/Cass | Three Rivers | Nebraska

Vaccinations at hospitals: Nebraska Medicine | Methodist Hospital | Children’s Hospital

Retail pharmacy vaccine sign-ups: Hy-Vee | Walmart | Sam’s Club | Baker’s | Kohll’s | CVS | Kubat

Vaccine information: Douglas County | Douglas County clinics | Nebraska || Iowa | Pottawattamie County | Mills County | Fremont County

COVID-19 dashboards: Douglas County | Sarpy County | Three Rivers Health District | Lancaster County | Nebraska | Iowa | Worldwide

School info: Omaha Public Schools | Millard Public Schools | Bellevue Public Schools | Westside Community Schools | Papillion-La Vista Community Schools | Gretna Public Schools | Elkhorn Public Schools | Council Bluffs Community Schools | Lincoln Public Schools | UNL | UNO | Midland University

COVID-19 risk dials: Lincoln-Lancaster County

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