OMAHA. NEB. (KMTV) — The Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) began listing the community COVID-19 level as "high" this week.
"In the last 30 days, we’ve had a 55% increase in hospitalizations. So I think we're up to 168 cases currently that are hospitalized and that CDC indicator looks at the number of hospitalizations and, if you have more than 10 hospitalizations over a seven-day period for a population of 100,000, that moves you up to a higher risk," said Justin Frederick, supervisor of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology.
The case numbers in the semi-weekly COVID-19 reports from DCHD have been rising this summer. On July 7 the health department pointed out that hospitalization rates for the metro area stood at 120 people compared to the year before when 26 people were in the hospital with COVID-19. According to Thursday's report from the Omaha Metropolitan Healthcare Coalition, which includes two counties in Iowa, there were 154 individuals in the hospital with COVID-19.
The "high" COVID-19 infection level is determined by the percentage of cases, hospital admissions, and inpatient beds being occupied by COVID patients. The CDC asks communities to determine if they had more than 200 cases per 100,000 people over a period of seven days. Then, local officials are asked to measure whether hospital admissions and the availability of staffed, inpatient beds are under or over 200 individuals per 100,000 residents throughout the last seven days.
According to the Douglas County Health Department, an increase in COVID hospitalizations is what's driven the change in risk indication for this area.
The increase in cases creates a worry of overwhelming the local hospitals. It impacts their ability to treat things other than COVID and stresses their staffing ability.
"Even mild infections are impacting hospitals in terms of staffing. So even those who have mild infections, if they are a healthcare worker they’re out of work right now. It's impacting us on both sides," said Dr. Sara Hurtado Bares, associate professor of medicine for the Division of Infectious Disease at UNMC.
Doctors urge everyone to get vaccinated and boosted, especially school-aged kids. They say, they want kids to stay in school and the best way to do that is to get them vaccinated.
"I don’t think I could recommend universal masking because I do think it impacted our learning. I really would like to have a higher number of vaccinations," Dr. Sharon Stoolman, Pediatric Hospitalist for Children's Hospital said. "If we could get at least half of the classroom vaccinated, we’d have a better chance of staying in class without masks on and that would be my ideal — a highly vaccinated classroom that doesn’t have to wear masks."
According to the health department's recent Thursday update, of the current COVID hospitalizations, four were pediatric cases.