The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today said the COVID-19 Risk Dial has moved from mid-orange to elevated orange, indicating that the risk of the virus spreading in the community is high and increasing. It is the first time the dial position has been this high since the dial was introduced May 11. On the color-coded dial, red represents "severe," the highest risk of COVID-19 spread, and green represents the lowest risk. The dial is updated every Friday.
"Too many people have let down their guard, and these individual actions are impacting our entire community." said Health Director Pat Lopez. "When you keep yourself and your family safe, you contribute to the overall health of our community. You help to prevent illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. You help to keep our schools and businesses open. We can still enjoy life during this pandemic, but we must do so in smart, safe ways. Wear a mask, stay at least six feet from others and wash your hands."
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 posted online just below the Dial. Lopez updated the five primary factors used to determine risk:
Number of new cases: This week so far, 432 cases have been reported. The weekly number of new cases has averaged about 600 over the past four weeks. Over the past six weeks, about 3,400 people have tested positive for COVID-19 locally, almost one-half of the total cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations: The number of COVID-19 patients in Lincoln hospitals has remained high over the past few weeks. The average weekly number of Lincoln and Lancaster County residents hospitalized increased from nine per day in early September to 38 per day in the past two weeks. When patients from outside of Lancaster County are added, the average number of people hospitalized at Bryan Health and CHI St. Elizabeth's over the past two weeks has been 65 per day.
Positivity rate: So far this week, the average weekly positivity rate is 12.5 percent. The rate has been in the teens for the past six weeks, indicating that the virus is widespread in the community and the risk of spread is high.
Testing capacity: More than 84,000 people have been tested in Lancaster County, and testing remains widely available in the community. So far this week about 3,500 tests have been completed.
Contact tracing capacity and testing turnaround time: While testing remains widely available in the community, the effectiveness of testing is highly dependent on how quickly the laboratory results are provided to LLCHD. Over the past two weeks, the average turnaround time has increased by almost two days. The average turnaround time was more than 4.4 days this week. That delays the start of contact tracing.
For more information, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.