COVID Hospitalizations Down; Precautions Urged

Dec. 20, 2021, 1:30 p.m. ·

Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at news conference Monday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at news conference Monday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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State officials say hospitalizations for COVID are down from last week, but Nebraskans should still get vaccinated and get treatment early if they contract the disease.

At a news conference Monday, Gov. Pete Ricketts said 523 people are hospitalized for COVID in Nebraska. That’s down from 637 last week, leaving about 27 percent of hospital beds unoccupied, along with 16 percent of intensive care unit beds. Ricketts says that means the state still has “robust” hospital capacity. But those are statewide figures, and spare capacity is more limited in metropolitan areas – for example, only 8 percent of ICU beds were available Sunday in Omaha’s Douglas County, according to the health department there. Ricketts said people can help the situation by getting vaccinated.

“Everybody who has not been vaccinated yet can help out by getting vaccinated. Getting the COVID shot will help you build the antibodies so that you reduce those severe reactions, like going to the hospital or potentially dying from getting COVID,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts said 90 percent of the people hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated.

The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Gary Anthone, said vaccinations are still the number one mechanism to fight COVID.

Anthone also described treatments including monoclonal antibodies, which reduce hospitalizations if given early or as a preventative measure for people at high risk.

Ricketts said he’s heard of some doctors not prescribing the treatment.

“If your doctor won’t give you that prescription without a good reason – I’ve had many people tell me their doctors just didn’t want to do it – get a new doctor. Go get a new doctor or contact our infusion center or our COVID-19 hotline,” he said.

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Dr. John Trapp, chief medical officer at Bryan Medical Center, said monoclonal antibodies are an important treatment. But he said it’s not up to doctors’ discretion, but rather, whether people meet the criteria for getting them, like being within 10 days of having symptoms.