Thursday Dec. 30 COVID-19 update: ‘We’re tired of watching people die,’ doctor writes

9 deaths, nearly 800 cases reported in Douglas County; Westside schools requiring masks when classes resume
The Douglas County Health Department has reported record-breaking COVID-19 case averages this week.
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 10:46 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2021 at 6:00 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.

Nebraska DHHS encouraging help with contact tracing

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services recently added a link to its home page making Nebraskans aware of changes to the state’s contact tracing procedures.

“If you test positive for COVID-19 or are a close contact with someone who tested positive, you may not receive a live phone call from a contact tracer. Instead, you may receive a text message from an automated text messaging service asking you to take a survey, it is important for you to respond and take the survey,” the DHHS web page states.

DHHS encourages anyone receiving such a text complete the survey as soon as possible in order to help health officials expedite contact tracing where clusters have been identified, particuarly in higher populated areas.

The state health department also provided a quarantine guide for those who have been exposed to COVID-19 but are not vaccinated; and a guide for those exposed to COVID-19 who are vaccinated.

Nebraska Medicine: ‘We’re tired of watching people die’

In an effort to educate the public on what the medical community is going through at this stage in the pandemic, Dr. Shaun Thompson, a critical care physician and anesthesiologist at Nebraska Medicine, wrote an article posted on the hospital’s website Thursday walking through what it called “the 6 stages of critical COVID-19 care,” stating: “We’re tired of COVID-19, just like everyone else is. But everyone else doesn’t have to watch people suffer and die on a daily basis.”

The article starts with the triage of a patient in an emergency room: “For a normal, healthy person, a blood oxygen reading is 90% to 100%. We’ve seen people in the emergency room in the 60% to 70% range because of COVID-19.”

It then moves to admission of a patient to a COVID-19 floor: “Some patients only need 1 to 10 liters per minute of supplemental oxygen. But others we have to put on “high flow” nasal cannula – 30 liters to 70 liters per minute.”

If the patient progresses beyond a need for oxygen, more invasive procedures are administered: “It’s too hard for you to keep your oxygen numbers up. Small movements leave you gasping for air. You look exhausted and you can’t maintain a breathing pattern on your own. Patients tell us it feels like they’re drowning.”

If 100% oxygen isn’t helping the patient, they will be intubated: “I’ve seen people go from 100% oxygen saturation to 20% or 15% in a matter of seconds because they have no reserve and their lungs are so diseased and damaged. When your oxygen level is that low, your heart can stop.”

Just being on a ventilator can be a risk in and of itself, potentially causing complications that be fatal. “If your lungs do not recover while on mechanical ventilation, we likely cannot do anything further to help. In these situations, we discuss withdrawing care from patients with their loved ones. It is a part of our job we hate. We don’t want to stop, but there comes a point that we are no longer doing things to help you but are only causing more prolongation of suffering.”

Those who do improve can eventually be extubated, but face a long road to recovery. “I tell my patients’ families that for every day they lay in an ICU bed, plan on a minimum week of rehab. So if you’re paralyzed and intubated for three weeks, that’s a minimum of 21 weeks of rehab. We’re having trouble discharging people from the hospital into rehab because all of the rehab facilities are full.”

Westside schools to require masks

Westside Community Schools notified staff and student families Thursday that masks would be required for the first 12 days of the new semester.

Citing an increase in current cases reported among students and staff, Westside Superintendent Mike Lucas said students and staff would be required to wear masks through at least Jan. 21.

“We will continue to monitor and analyze data in the coming weeks and will make a decision/announcement about what our protocols will be for January 24th and beyond in a few weeks,” Dr. Lucas said in the letter.

Masks will also be required at all school activities, including concerts and sports events.

“We anticipate even more cases coming in today, tomorrow, and over the weekend. This rise in cases makes adequately staffing our buildings and programs even more challenging,” the letter states.

According to the letter, the district has had 52 cases among students and staff since Dec. 21: 31 at Westside High School, seven at Westside Middle School, and 14 among elementary schools in the district. That along with increased spread of COVID-19 in the community prompted the district’s decision, Dr. Lucas said.

In addition to updating the district’s COVID-19 dashboard daily, weekly updates will be sent to each building Fridays with the number of confirmed cases in that building during that week. If three or more cases are identified in a grade-school homeroom or classroom — or in any high-school group, cluster or team — families will be notified of the exposure.

“We will continue to close classrooms and/or quarantine students due to positive cases if/when required by the Douglas County Health Department,” Dr. Lucas’ letter states.

Health officials are planning to expand booster eligibility to ages 12 and older and are asking people to rethink their New Year's Eve plans.

Douglas County positivity data comparison

The Douglas County COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday was showing the county’s seven-day average per 100,000 population was 528.2 cases, up from 407.3 reported a day earlier. The county also reported the local positivity rate, as of Saturday, was 12%, while the CDC was reporting a 16.3% positivity rate for the county as of Thursday.

For comparison, CDC data for the week ending Wednesday also shows the following seven-day average cases per 100,000 population for these metropolitan counties around the region:

For further comparison, here are the same data points for other metropolitan counties elsewhere in the country:

Douglas County update

The Douglas County Health Department on Thursday reported nine COVID-19 deaths: four men and five women, four of whom were vaccinated.

DCHD said the men who died were between the ages 65 and 75, and that one of them was vaccinated. Of the five women who died, one was in her 50s, two were in their 80s, and two were older than age 90; three of them were unvaccinated.

The latest report brings the local COVID-19 death toll to 915.

Also on Thursday, the health department reported 794 positive COVID-19 cases had been confirmed — the highest one-day total reported this year — bringing the total number of local infected residents to 103,128. The new cases caused a spike in the seven-day average, which jumped from 335 to 410 cases — the highest it’s been in more than a year; the Douglas County COVID-19 dashboard shows Dec. 21, 2020, as the last date the average surpassed 400. A week ago, the average was 266 cases. A month ago, it was 239. A year ago, it was 273.

Local hospital capacity stats are updated daily according to staffing levels. As of Wednesday afternoon, DCHD said local hospitals were 89% full, with 162 staffed beds available; adult ICU beds were 89% occupied, with 32 staffed beds available; and pediatric ICU beds were at 88% capacity with 15 beds available.

Among those hospitalized were 291 COVID-19 patients — the first decrease this week — including nine pediatric patients. There were 88 adult COVID-19 patients in local ICUs, 44 of them on ventilators.

Additionally, six adults were awaiting COVID-19 test results.

As of Thursday, the DCHD dashboard was also reporting that 63.4% of residents were fully vaccinated.

Lincoln-Lancaster County update

(KOLN) - A new daily COVID case record for Lancaster County in 2021 was set Thursday, Dec. 30.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department reported 345 new cases. It’s the highest in a single day since 418 were reported early December 2020.

There are currently 130 COVID patients in Lincoln hospitals. That’s also the highest of the year and the highest since last December.

About 64% of all people are fully vaccinated in Lancaster County.

Iowa child COVID hospitalizations up amid increased spread

(AP) - The rate of coronavirus spread in Iowa has increased in the past week as state health officials posted 10,162 positive tests in the past seven days.

While hospitalizations dropped slightly the state reports increased hospitalizations among children. The Iowa Department of Public Safety says in its weekly update posted Wednesday that 16 children under the age of 17 were hospitalized with COVID-19. All are unvaccinated.

The Iowa vaccination rate among young children remains low with just 14% of those between ages 5 and 11 fully vaccinated. Iowa is averaging 1,566 cases per day and the state posted an additional 59 deaths on Wednesday for a total of 7,858 COVID-19 deaths.

COVID deaths in Kansas top 7,000; county mulls new mask rule

(AP) - Kansas is now reporting more than 7,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Gov. Laura Kelly ordered flags flown at half-staff until sundown Friday.

Meanwhile, health officials in Douglas County are talking again about the possibility of imposing a local mask mandate after one for children expired only last week.

County health department Director Dan Partridge told the Lawrence Journal-World that he, the county administrator, and the CEO of the local health system plan to meet next week and that the question of imposing a new mask mandate is sure to come up. The Douglas County Commission would decide whether to impose a new mask mandate.

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.

  • 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: Douglas County Nebraska Nebraska...

Posted by Douglas County Health Department on Wednesday, December 29, 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.

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. 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.

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 quick search: COVID-19 | Coronavirus | Vaccine

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