Tuesday Dec. 21 COVID-19 update: Omicron variant found in Douglas County

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 9:56 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2021 at 3:18 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.

Douglas County update

The Douglas County Health Department on Tuesday reported 378 positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the local total to 99,353 cases since the start of the pandemic.

The latest cases bring the seven-day average to 255 cases, down from 265 on Monday.

The local death toll stands at 890.

A week ago, DCHD reported 453 cases; the same number of cases was also reported about a month ago. A year ago, DCHD reported 405 cases of COVID-19 and five deaths.

Local hospital capacity stats are updated daily according to staffing levels. DCHD said that as of Monday afternoon, local hospitals collectively were still 85% full but with 11 more beds available than the day prior, for a total of 219 beds available Monday, compared to 108 beds reported Friday. ICUs on Monday were at 93% occupancy, with 22 beds available, compared to 25 on Sunday and 12 beds available at the end of last week. Meanwhile, pediatric ICUs were 88% full with 15 beds available, down from 19 available on Sunday but up from 12 reported Friday.

A year ago, hospitals were at 76% capacity with 376 beds available; and ICUs were 67% occupied with 111 beds available.

As of Monday afternoon, Douglas County hospitals were caring for 294 COVID-19 patients. There were 86 COVID-19 patients in local ICUs, 41 of them on ventilators.

Additionally, there were seven adult patients awaiting COVID-19 test results.

Omicron in Douglas County

The Douglas County Health Department said Tuesday it had confirmed 10 cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant in residents ages 5 to 56.

The latest variant has been shown to spread more easily than other variants, but it is not yet known how common severe illness, hospitalization, and death are with omicron compared to other variants, the health department said in its release Tuesday.

Dr. Huse said in a zoom conference Tuesday afternoon that the health department had not yet determined whether the positive cases they were symptomatic or not, where they may have contracted the virus, and whether they were vaccinated.

“We are not surprised to see omicron in Douglas County and have been planning for it,” Dr. Huse said in the release. “If you haven’t gotten your vaccine or booster yet, please do so now. Also, please keep wearing a mask in public places, practice distancing as much as possible, and stay home when you are sick. Our community can slow the spread of this if we all pitch in and do our part.”

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30

DCHD report to commissioners

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse told the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday morning that the declines seen in the past week are not likely to hold in the coming weeks, as global trends indicate an increase COVID-19 community spread is likely, particularly as many in the community gather for holiday celebrations.

Dr. Huse noted that the local positivity rate declined 2.1% in the past week to 10.4%, with the seven-day average number of cases also declining to 323.5 per 100,000 people. As the decline occurred amid an increased number of tests, that indicates a “true decrease,” but the health director said that trend would likely not hold in coming weeks, particularly with omicron continuing to spread across the U.S.

Dr. Huse said during her report Tuesday morning the omicron variant has not yet been confirmed in Douglas County, but that it could very likely be here already, “we just haven’t sequenced enough tests, maybe, to catch that.”

CASES: The majority of cases are mostly occurring in young adult populations, with some increases in the pediatric population as well. Dr. Huse said there have been clusters and outbreaks identified in schools, and the health department is working with those schools to help mitigate further spread into the community.

DEATHS: The health department confirmed 11 COVID-19 deaths in the past week. Dr. Huse said six were unvaccinated and that the five who were vaccinated and died were all older than age 75 with “other conditions that may have predisposed them to severe illness.” Those who are unvaccinated and die are typically below age 65, she said.

HOSPITALIZATIONS: The number of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals continues to be high.

The health director again reminded people that the percentages don’t always give the full picture of what’s happening in local hospitals, saying that 93% ICU capacity “just means they’re full.” Staff are taking care of more patients at once than they normally would

Ventilator usage has also dropped in the past week, but like other factors showing a decline this past week, it may not hold, Dr. Huse said.

Hospital capacity issues are not looking good, she said, with local hospital officials scrambling “to keep care moving for the community. ... It’s a pretty dire situation.” Discussions are happening at the state level with DHHS and the Nebraska Hospital Association to figure out how to move patients where they can receive adequate care in a skilled nursing facility or comparable care center, she said.

VACCINATION BREAKTHROUGHS: Breakthrough cases remain low — 2.6% — but continue to increase slightly over time, Dr. Huse said. The health department is prioritizing getting people in for their COVID-19 booster vaccinations, she said, reporting that 37.5% have had a third dose or booster.

VACCINATIONS: Dr. Huse said the health department has been very busy as many in the community come out to get the younger population vaccinated, with parents sometimes receiving their first dose with their kids. A month since the authorization for ages 5-11, 18.3% of that population locally is fully vaccinated, and Dr. Huse expects that number will significantly increase in coming weeks.

The county hopes to have a vaccine available for the 0-4-year-olds next month, she said, noting the trials have been delayed as dosing is finalized. Dr. Huse said she thought it might be likely that the age group is split in half in terms of rollout, with ages 2-4 and ages 0-2 being grouped together. Anticipating the need for vaccination clinics for small children, the health department is talking through ideas for ideal times, given those vaccinations are likely to take a little longer, and proper locations.

The Elkhorn-Bennington corridor continues to be the most vaccinated population, with vaccination rates decreasing the farther east you go, she said.

MASKING: Dr. Huse said she expects masks to be recommended for some time, even for those who are vaccinated and boosted, particularly as the omicron variant becomes a factor. While it offers protection for the individual wearing the mask, it also protects others should the person wearing the mask be asymptomatic, she said.

Dr. Huse said has considered a mask mandate and had discussions about it — particularly as omicron looms with the potential to cause much more illness and drive up hospitalizations — but doesn’t have the authority to do so.

She said a mandate makes sense, especially as hospitals are talking about moving to crisis standards of care as the community is trying to prevent inflow to the hospitals as much as possible.

“It’s something I’ve already thought about and have had conversations about. Unfortunately, I just don’t think that there’s the will there to do that at this point,” she said.

Watch the full DCHD report

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse gave her update on COVID-19 in the local community to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21.

Madonna launching recovery clinic

Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals has launched an outpatient post-COVID recovery clinic designed to assist “long-haulers” in their recovery efforts.

The post-COVID rehabilitation team is prepared to assist with enduring symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, balance issues, memory and concentration difficulties, anxiety and depression, limited respiratory strength, and voice or swallowing impairments.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Madona has treated more than 265 patients recovering from COVID-19 and is now offering the care as an extension of its inpatient program.

“As we manage this current surge and work our hardest to bring these patients successfully through their illness, there is a real concern that the hospital that is overwhelmed now will have long-term difficulties with placing our patients in the appropriate level of post-hospital care, and this weighs heavily on our team,” said Elizabeth Madson, a physician’s assistant at Nebraska Medicine. “We appreciate our partnership with Madonna, as a pulmonary critical care team because it provides a sense of hope for us and another option for these patients.”

The clinic is currently accepting referrals.

Lincoln-Lancaster County update

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department on Tuesday reported a COVID-19 death: a woman in her 80s who was unvaccinated died, bringing the area’s death toll to 346.

LLCHD also confirmed 139 COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases there to 48,150.

The health department also reported Tuesday that area hospitals were caring for 126 COVID-19 patients, 21 of them on ventilators.

As of Tuesday, 63.8% of the local population was fully vaccinated.

The county’s DHM, which includes a mask mandate, is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

Lincoln Public Schools plan to continue mask policy

LPS announced Tuesday that it would — “for now” — continue to require its staff and students to wear masks during the school day while in school buildings.

LPS plans to provide further details about its policy at a news conference planned for noon Wednesday.

The district has 41,000 students and 8,000 staff members.

Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations

UPDATED COVID-19 VACCINE RECOMMENDATIONS: CDC recommends mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) over the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. This decision was made after a careful review of the latest data on vaccine effectiveness, safety, and rare adverse events. More: https://bit.ly/3EiXjAX.

Posted by CDC on Tuesday, December 21, 2021

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 as indicated below. Those planning to get a booster shot should bring their vaccination card.

  • Noon-4 p.m. at the Douglas County Health Department, located at 1111 S. 41st. St. – All vaccines available.
  • 5-7 p.m. at R.M. Marrs Magnet Middle School, located at 5619 S. 19th St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 5-7 p.m. at Nathan Hale Magnet Middle School, located at 6143 Whitmore St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Heart Ministry Center, located at 2222 Binney St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Bryan Middle School, located at 8210 S. 42nd St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Benson High Magnet School, located at 5120 Maple St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Douglas County Health Department, located at 1111 S. 41st. St. – All vaccines available.
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Burke High School, located at 12200 Burke St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Omaha North High Magnet School, located at 4410 N. 36th St. – All vaccines available.
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Omaha South High Magnet School, located at 4519 S. 24th St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 4-7 p.m. at Bennington High School, located at 16610 Bennington Road – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Morton Magnet Middle School, located at 12200 Burke St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • Noon-4 p.m. at the Douglas County Health Department, located at 1111 S. 41st. St. – All vaccines available.
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Alfonza W. David Middle School, located at 8050 N. 129th St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Norris Middle School, located at 2235 S. 46th St. – Pfizer for ages 5+
  • 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Douglas County Health Department, located at 1111 S. 41st. St. – All vaccines available.

Today's #Covid19 Update is right here: https://www.douglascountyhealth.com/latest-news Douglas County Nebraska Nebraska...

Posted by Douglas County Health Department on Tuesday, December 21, 2021

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.

Around Omaha

SOUTH OMAHA: Testing and vaccinations are 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 obtain COVID-19 vaccinations or boosters at the Omaha VA Medical Center’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics’ walk-in hours from 8 a.m.-2:45 p.m. weekdays. Appointments can also be scheduled online.

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.

Sarpy/Cass vaccination clinics

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

Vaccines available at this clinic:​ ● First and second doses (Pfizer 5+, Moderna 18+, Johnson & Johnson 18+) ● Boosters...

Posted by Sarpy/Cass Health Department on Sunday, December 19, 2021

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

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.

3RPHD is planning the following vaccination clinics next week at the Three Rivers Clinic, located at 2400 N. Lincoln Ave. in Fremont:

  • 8 a.m-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21
  • 8 a.m-3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22
  • 8 a.m-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28

The health department is also planning a clinic from 1-4 p.m. Jan. 2 at United Methodist Church in Blair.

Three regular 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.

In the upcoming weeks, due to the holidays and increased demand for vaccines, we will have modified days and hours for...

Posted by Three Rivers Public Health Department, Nebraska on Monday, December 13, 2021

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 | Bryan Health | 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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