The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) announced today that the COVID-19 Risk Dial at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov has moved back to low-orange from mid-orange. Although the risk of the virus spreading in Lincoln remains high, Health Director Pat Lopez said some of the key indicators are steady or improving. On the color-coded dial, red represents "severe," the highest risk of COVID-19 spread, and green represents the lowest risk. The dial is usually updated every Friday.
The position of the Risk Dial is based on multiple local indicators and information from the previous three weeks. More information on the metrics used by LLCHD is now posted online just below the Dial. Lopez updated five of the key factors they consider:
Case numbers. The seven-day rolling average increased from about 30 cases a day at the beginning of July to about 50 last week. The average number of new cases per day this week has averaged 46, indicating that the trend may be flattening. LLCHD expects the total number of cases to be about 300, a decline from the 331 and 362 cases reported in the last two weeks..
Positivity rate. The weekly positivity rate has been on the rise from an average of 4.8 percent in June to an average of 7.3 percent in July - an increase of 52 percent. The overall rate remains at 6.8 percent today.
Contact tracing capacity. LLCHD currently has more than sufficient capacity to do investigations, and is able to keep pace with demand. Nursing staff initiates contact tracing and attempts to reach out to close contacts of positive cases within 24 hours of receiving the lab result. Lopez said the turn-around time to receive test results has fluctuated from week to week depending on the regional and national demand for testing. She said delays in receiving lab results impacts the ability to provide education to those who have tested positive and delays the start of contact tracing, which is important in identifying clusters and stopping outbreaks. Lopez said that at the end of last week, about 75 percent of testing results were received within two to three days.
Hospital capacity. Lincoln hospitals have about 55 percent of their ICU beds available and about 90 percent of their ventilators available. There are 19 COVID-19 patients in our local hospitals today.
Testing capacity. Since the beginning of this pandemic, 44,599 individuals have now been tested for COVID-19 in Lancaster County. (Each individual counts as one test, no matter how many times they are tested.) Bryan Health and CHI Health St. Elizabeth both have capacity to do more testing at their drive-through testing sites. Test Nebraska has expanded testing to six days a week, and is moving from North Star High School to Gateway Mall starting Saturday, August 1. Appointments are required for testing, and the process begins at BryanHealth.com, CHIHealth.com, and TestNebraska.com.
The current Directed Health Measure (DHM) went into effect July 20 and remains in effect through August 31. It requires all individuals age five and older to wear a face covering when they are in an indoor space that is open to the public unless six feet of separation from others at all times can be achieved. The DHM also requires business owners to ensure their patrons age five and older wear face coverings any time they cannot maintain six feet of separation with non-household members. More information, including a list of exceptions is available at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov.
The City advises those who observe someone not wearing a mask in public to stay six feet away from the individual and not to call law enforcement emergency or non-emergency numbers. The public can make complaints regarding compliance through the UPLNK app or the website, UPLNK.lincoln.ne.gov. Businesses with specific questions about the face covering requirement can call the Health Department at 402-441-6280.
For more information, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.