LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – The number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Nebraska, with the Delta variant taking hold in many communities.
At the same time, it’s unclear where these cases are coming from or when the numbers started to climb because the state has removed its dashboard and has no plans to bring it back.
“Frankly, this is a real problem,” said Dr. Mark Rupp, infectious disease specialist at Nebraska Medicine.
Nebraska has removed its COVID-19 dashboard, which once listed detailed data on cases, hospitalizations, deaths, vaccination rates, and more. Now, the state plans to publish a list of issues every Wednesday. These numbers cover the state’s total cases and tests, current hospital admissions, positivity and vaccination rates, and a list of variants that the state tracks. It does not show trends, a breakdown by county, demographics or numbers from daily reports.
“Dismantling the dashboard and preventing the widespread dissemination of accurate and transparent information is a problem,” Rupp said. “It was inappropriate, reckless and unfortunately somewhat reckless.”
Especially because the figures there are worrying.
The site says there have been a total of 226,552 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed since the start of the pandemic. That number is about 2,500 higher than the last time the data reported by the state on June 16.
Hospitalizations have also more than doubled since then, from 42 to 97. Nebraska’s vaccination rate remains at 49%.
“I am really concerned that we are on the rise of a significant increase in the number of cases,” Rupp said.
Without a dashboard, it’s not clear exactly when and where the numbers first changed. Many counties in the state are reporting their own COVID-19 numbers on health district websites, but this is not consistent or consistent.
Among the health districts that still report data, many have positivity rates above 5 percent, with the rate in Panhandle health district standing at 21 percent as of the last update.
In light of this increase, we asked DHHS if they plan to bring the dashboard back. A spokesperson said no because it was an executive decree related to the pandemic that allowed the state to release detailed health information. She said without this order, disclosing any identifiable information, which she did not specifically define, was against state law.
We have also contacted the office of Governor Pete Ricketts. Taylor Gage, a spokesperson, did not respond to questions regarding the dashboard but sent the following statement: “The goal of the State of Nebraska has always been to protect hospital capacity and we remain focused on This measure. By working together, the Nebraskans have been successful in protecting hospital capacity over the past year and a half. “
At a press conference declaring the end of the pandemic state of emergency and the expiration of executive orders, Ricketts told local health departments they should remove their risk dials.
“COVID-19 will always be with us, but it’s time to get back to normal,” Ricketts said. “We’re back to normal now. “
But Dr Rupp said it was not yet time to get back to normal.
“I have significant concerns that are starting to be confirmed,” Rupp said. “We have seen strong increases and indicators that the Delta variant is spreading widely in Nebraska.”
Rupp said the Delta variant will continue to spread as long as there are pockets of the population that are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“People will get sick, many will go to hospitals and some will lose their lives, needlessly at this point,” Rupp said.
He said cases remained well below the state’s peak in November, but that’s only because nearly 50% of Nebraskans have been vaccinated. He said that currently in Nebraska Medicine and across the country, the majority of people hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19 are not vaccinated.
“Which is a real tragedy because we have control to reduce this pandemic to low levels if the vaccine is more widely accepted,” Rupp said.
He said the community must realize that the vaccine is the best way to recover from the pandemic.
“We have administered hundreds of millions of doses across the country. We understand the side effects and adverse events, they are quite rare. It’s safe and the benefits far outweigh the risks, ”Rupp said.
He said that while there are people who may never decide to get the vaccine, there are others who just haven’t or who might need to be convinced. He hopes these groups will choose to be shot now.
He urges vaccinations and calls for more transparency regarding the state scorecard.
“It’s a problem and should be reversed,” Rupp said.
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