Lincoln and Lancaster County Remain in Highest Pandemic Risk Category

Jan. 19, 2022, 6 p.m. ·

A woman wearing a red blazer and black square glasses speaks at a podium.
Pat Lopez, the Lincoln-Lancaster County health director, speaks at the weekly COVID-19 briefing. (Photo from Zoom press conference)

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Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez said Lancaster County’s COVID-19 situation can be described in two words.

"Extreme risk," she said at the weekly pandemic briefing on Wednesday. "Our risk dial remains in red. Our situation continues to require an urgent community response."

Case numbers have risen by more than 350% since the end of 2021. Hospitalizations and deaths have also increased. Lopez said the department hopes infections will peak within the next couple of weeks, then level off.

The surge is driven by the Omicron variant. Russ Gronewold, Bryan Health’s president and chief executive officer, says he’s heard talk that Omicron infections aren’t serious.

"Yknow, a friend of a friend posted something that said 0micron is essentially just a little bit more than a cold. What's the big deal," Gronewald said. "There are about 100 folks in my hospital that would disagree that it's just a little bit more than a cold."

Health officials say Lincoln’s mask mandate is working, as are vaccinations and boosters. They add testing capacity is expanding thanks to a new testing site in Lincoln, and a new federal program that sends four free at-home tests to households.