COVID in Nebraska: Cases at an All-Time High, Hospital Doubling Down on Masks

Jan. 7, 2022, 5:30 p.m. ·

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COVID-19 cases in Nebraska hit an all-time high this Monday, according to the most recent data from the state COVID dashboard.

According to the updated data from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, there were more than 3,700 cases of COVID-19 from Monday’s seven-day rolling average.

State COVID dashboard (1/7)
Nebraska COVID-19 numbers reported as of Friday afternoon, January 7th. (Photo/Graph courtesy of Nebraska DHHS)

Michele Bever is the South Heartland Health Director and said the district's seven-day average jumped from 398 cases per 100,000 people last week to nearly 500 this week. Bever says the first omicron variant case was detected in her district on Monday evening. Recent sequencing shows a quickly changing variant demographic in South Heartland.

“Since then, we’ve had 11 more sequence results come through and four of those were omicron and the other seven were delta,” Bever said, “so we still have predominantly delta in our area based on our sequences but more omicron as we go along.”

The positivity rate in South Heartland is about 15 percent, compared to the state average of 18 percent.

CHI Health recently announced it will require double masking from its frontline health workers. A surgical mask underneath a thick cloth mask is designed to create a better air seal to protect against the highly contagious omicron variant. Dr. Renugna Vivekanandan at CHI Health said a large number of CHI employees are out sick.

“We have about 11,000 employees and as of yesterday, Thursday, January 6th, we had about 210 employees that are out ill,” Dr. Vivekananda said.

CHI said double masking reduces the amount of particles released from breathing by 85 percent, compared to 60 percent with a single mask.

Over the past two weeks, Nebraska’s seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases increased by more than 80 percent.