Virus Cases Level Off In Nebraska But Experts Still Worry

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's new COVID-19 cases leveled off last week, but experts say they will likely rise in the weeks ahead due to the highly contagious delta variant.

The state reported 5,313 new virus cases in the week that ended Friday, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is down slightly from the 5,329 cases the state reported the previous week but more than 20 times higher than the 253 cases per week Nebraska was reporting in late June.

Dr. James Lawler, an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Global Center for Health Security, said he doesn’t think Nebraska or the nation is past the peak of this latest surge.

“I would be really surprised if we did not continue to see growing outbreaks across the state,” he said to the Omaha World-Herald.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska continued to rise over the past two weeks from 715.14 new cases per day on Aug. 29 to 822.86 new cases per day on Sunday.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus in Nebraska grew slightly last week to 364, and hospitals across the state continued to struggle with capacity concerns. The number of COVID-19 patients remains well below last fall’s peak of 987 but hospitals are currently quite full with non-COVID patients as well.

A spokesman for Bryan Health in Lincoln said the health system is routinely at capacity. At midnight Sunday, the hospital had 51 intensive care patients for its 50 ICU beds.

Cory Shaw, Nebraska Medicine’s chief operating officer, said the health system’s capacity situation hasn’t changed much over the past six weeks with the hospital operating at close to 95% full most days. The Nebraska Medical Center keeps a few beds open for emergencies, but to do that it has accepted limited transfers from other facilities.