After a brief one-week reprieve, local COVID-19 cases increased nearly 30% last week to their highest level in almost four months.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department reported 533 cases for the week that ended Saturday. That was up 28% from the 417 cases reported the previous week and the highest weekly total since the week ending Feb. 12.
The 417 cases had represented a slight decrease over the previous week, the first week-to-week decrease in nearly two months, although health officials said testing declines because of the Memorial Day holiday had likely played a role in the decline.
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The increase in cases this week led the Health Department to raise its COVID-19 risk dial to the high-yellow range, the highest it’s been since late February.
Hospitalizations, which have not risen at nearly the same rate as cases, have ticked up in the past few days. The seven-day average of daily hospitalizations now tops 29, up from less than 22 at the start of the month. There were 31 COVID-19 patients in Lincoln hospitals Tuesday.
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Health Director Pat Lopez said case numbers rose across age groups last week, and she encouraged people to get vaccinated if they haven’t yet and to get booster shots if they are eligible.
“Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, which includes getting booster doses when eligible, helps protect you from severe illness and being hospitalized,” Lopez said. “If you’re eligible for a booster or haven’t yet received the primary series, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Other COVID-19 indicators were mixed. Lopez said the amount of virus particles found in wastewater sampling was up 17% last week, but the county’s test positivity rate dropped from 16.1% to 14.4%.
The numbers in Lancaster County mirror conditions statewide.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,496 COVID-19 cases for the week ending Saturday, which was nearly 20% higher than the previous week.
DHHS no longer reports total hospitalizations in its weekly updates, but its data show that statewide emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms jumped from 419 the week ending May 28 to 505 last week.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were up 20% in Nebraska last week, hitting a daily average of 106. The 130 Nebraskans hospitalized as of Friday was the highest figure since late March.
CDC data also showed that Nebraska recorded 10 additional deaths last week and has seen nearly 100 since the beginning of May. By contrast, Lancaster County has had only one COVID-19 death since May 1 and only two since the beginning of April.
The Omaha World-Herald contributed to this report.
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