Public health directors urge vaccinations as COVID-19 cases rise

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Nebraska's COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase, according to the state's acting epidemiologist.

Dr. Matthew Donahue and the state's public health directors urged residents to get vaccinated during a virtual press conference to mark Public Health Thank You Day.

Active hospitalizations nationwide and in Nebraska have been rising since October. Hospitals are more full now than they were a year ago despite having half the number of active COVID-19 cases.

“That's because hospitals are taking care of patients with diseases other than COVID-19 — the normal things,” Donahue said. “But that extra COVID-19 burden is filling them up to the point where ICU availability is low as it has ever been.”

Donahue said Nebraskans who are vaccinated are 10 times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.

“The only reason we can have more community transmission but fewer active hospitalizations now than we did a year ago is because of the vaccine,” Donahue said. “More than all else, vaccinations remain the greatest tool in this fight.”

More than 1.1 million Nebraskans are fully vaccinated. An additional 600 Nebraskans become fully vaccinated each day. Since 5 to 11 year olds became eligible for vaccinations, an average of 1,400 Pfizer doses are given to this age group every day in Nebraska, Donahue said.

In the Three Rivers Public Health district, there have been 96,518 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered.

Donahue and the public health directors reiterated that staying home when sick, avoiding crowds, frequent handwashing, wearing a mask, and staying six feet away from those not in your immediate family, as well as the vaccine, are important tools in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

“As we continue our journey with COVID-19, we now have more tools in our vault to combat this virus than we did a year ago. We are thankful for all of them,” said Terra Uhing, executive director of the Three Rivers Public Health Department. “We encourage everyone to take advantage of all of those tools, but especially the vaccine. This is a tool we did not have this time last year, but it is amazingly effective and widely available today.”

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