OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Tuesday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour provided an update on the coronavirus pandemic.
Pour said she expects the county to shift to Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan by next week. The phase change will open up vaccinations to people who are 65 and older, people who have high-risk medical conditions and other important infrastructure members.
She said a reason they are prioritizing people in that age bracket is because they are the group with the highest fatality rate from COVID-19 at a rate of 82%.
People who are interested, and qualify for the next phase, can sign up at the county’s website. About 50,000 have already signed up, Pour said.
For those who qualify, many will be able to receive the vaccine in assisted living facilities. For those who don’t live in assisted living facilities, the county has four vaccine administration sites in the works. So far, the county plans to set one up in Millard, one just south of 108th and Dodge streets, one on the northern portion of 72nd Street and one downtown.
Pour and Stothert both said the city is using up vaccines, which should come in at a rate of about 6,600 a week, as soon as possible.
"We should be expecting 6,600 doses from the state, that’s a very small amount per week. 6,600 per week. That’s 29% of what is being allocated to the state of Nebraska," Dr. Pour said.
The state decides on allocation amount by the number of people counties have that qualify for that specific phase.
A new vaccine is on the horizon and could get approved by mid-March, said Pour. With another vaccine, it should help speed up phase 1B.
At the rate we are vaccinating right now, Dr. Pour said it will take a while before the county gets back to normal. At the current rate of vaccinations, that should take over a year. Pour said she hopes that vaccinations will move faster beginning soon.
"I would say about 70% of [the population 16 and older] need to be vaccinated to really go back to a normal life," Dr. Pour said. "At this rate, we would have to go more than a year but I hope we won’t go forward at this rate."
Pour said the Douglas County Health Department’s records show the mortality rate in the county is at .97% which is lower than the state as a whole. She said this could be thanks to spread mitigation efforts and treatment options that have become available since the start of the pandemic.
The mortality rate, transmission rate and hospitalizations have continued to fall since a high in November. Pour urged people to continue spread mitigation efforts to help continue the downward trend.
To help get the city back on track following the loss of revenue and jobs due to the pandemic, Stothert presented a 10-point checklist of items that her office is making a priority.
The items on the list include:
- Public safety: The mayor said the city is working on a new class of police recruits that would have been hired if the pandemic hadn’t been taking place. The next class of OPD recruits should start training in April.
- Extending the mask ordinance: Stothert said the mask mandate is working and she will support an extension until at least May 25.
- Vaccine distribution: The mayor’s office will continue to work with the health department to distribute and administer vaccinations.
- Rent and utility assistance: Between state and county funding, the city has about $22.2 million to help those who are dealing with COVID-19 related costs such as utilities and rent.
- Managing the city budget: The city saw a shortfall of tax revenue which was brought on by the pandemic. This came in the form of losses for restaurants, bars, and tourism. Stothert said the city is expected to finish the year with money in the bank thanks to hiring freezes, limiting public resources such as libraries and pools, and also thanks to county and state grants. The mayor said it’s important that the city maintains a positive balance as more pandemic-related costs could creep up in the future.
- Expanding community service and grant funding: Stothert said the city wants to increase community funding for job and work readiness training. She said this is especially important now as many have lost their jobs, are working multiple jobs or are underemployed.
- Unemployment: Unemployment is down to 3.5% in the city but Stothert said she wants to bring more jobs to Omaha.
- Omaha’s tourism industry
- Communication between the mayor’s office and citizens
- The city’s COVID-19 Advisory Board
Mayor Stothert said the list creates benchmarks for her and her staff and requires them to consistently review their progress
“We feel like it’s very very important that we plan a successful restart of our economy and support our citizens and support our businesses that need assistance," Stothert said.
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