OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The perfect equation to help end the COVID-19 pandemic includes mass testing and mass vaccinations, but both have slowed down in Nebraska.
"From our peak in November we were getting about 20,000 tests per day and we've had about an average of 7,500 tests completed daily for about the last month," Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services incident commander, Angie Ling said.
The state's contract with Test Nebraska is also up in July and the state still isn't sure if that contract will be extended.
"I'm assuming it's going to turn into more of I'm going into clinic, hospital, name wherever you go and I don't feel good, okay we're going to do a COVID test, we'll do a flu test. That's what it's going to turn into," Ling said.
However, as the vaccination effort progresses some are steering away from testing completely, thinking that after a vaccine the only result expected is a false positive. This is false.
“I think it’s one of those urban myths. The vaccine really will not make your test turn positive," said Dr. Mark Rupp, University of Nebraska Medical Center leading infectious disease expert.
An individual can test positive for antibodies, but not the actual infection just from the vaccine.
“You can’t test positive just based on your vaccination," Ling said. “But you can test positive for antibodies, which is what we want you to be building when you get your vaccinations.”
Despite the plateaued numbers, much of the state has in fact been vaccinated; 56% of Nebraskans have received at least one dose and 42.9% are fully vaccinated. Nonetheless, state officials want those numbers to jump to at least 70 percent.
"For the vaccination effort we're doing a lot of outreach to businesses, we're trying to get into the communities, we're trying to change our hours, make it walk-in versus scheduled appointments," Ling said.
To stomp out the virus both testing and vaccinations need to be synchronously working together to avoid outbreaks from variants like the outbreak we're seeing in India now.
“It’s been really, really hard to watch what’s happening in India," CHI leading infectious disease expert Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan said. "If infection goes out of control in other countries and there's different variants that emerge, then we're at risk all over again."