Health experts continue to monitor COVID in preparation for possible surge
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Lancaster County reported its first COVID death in the month of April. The man was fully vaccinated and in his 50s, who also had serious underlying health conditions.
Even though COVID cases are low and things like mask mandates in the transportation sector are dropping, health experts will continue to monitor case counts in the community due to an anticipated surge.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department said Lancaster County is still in the green on their COVID risk dial and the Lincoln area has averaged fewer than 10 cases a day. The positivity rate in the area has remained around 4%.
Experts say the concern has to due with waning immunity.
“Every area of the country is experiencing an increase of COVID detection in wastewater and that is probably going to translate into more community classes,” Dr. James Lawler with UNMC said.
Lawler is an infectious disease physician at UNMC. He thinks there will be a resurgence of COVID - specifically Omicron variant BA-2.
“[It’s been] 6-8 months since they’ve had a dose of any vaccine, so that’s going to make our population very vulnerable to more severe disease by mid-summer,” Dr. Lawler said.
Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez said that it’s too soon to make predictions about possible BA-2 fueled surges.
“We’ve been doing wastewater testing for sometime,” Director Lopez said. “We monitor that number, and it’s staying pretty level also, that’s another indicator we have that tells us about the spread in the community.”
Both Lawler and Lopez agreed that vaccination is necessary to prevent a future increase in cases. A fourth dose that was approved for the immuno-compromised and those who are over 50 is encouraged.
“The more people we have vaccinated, not only are we reducing the number of hospitalization and severe disease, but we’re also reducing spread in the community,” Dr. Lawler.
In Lancaster County, about 72% of eligible people are fully vaccinated and about 2,000 people are signed up for vaccine clinics at Pinnacle Bank Arena next week.
“People who have the booster even if they should develop COVID from one of the variant strains, have a much milder case and tend to not be hospitalized, and if they are hospitalized it’s not for very long,” Lopez said.
Lawler said if people don’t stay up to date on vaccinations, the state will continue in what he calls a “Groundhogs Day” situation.
“Our population will be less well-protected come fall than we were last year,” Dr. Lawler said. “We will see widespread transmission and lower rates of immunity in the population which means we will see higher rates of hospitalization and death.”
Statewide COVID rates are also flat and have not showed an increase in cases or hospitalizations. About 68% of eligible Nebraskans are fully vaccinated.