Nebraska and Douglas County health officials on Friday reported record numbers of new COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.
The state reported 2,124 new cases, based on tallies received from testing labs Thursday. That’s the first time the state has topped 2,000 new cases on a given day since the pandemic began. The total topped the previous record of 1,828 reported Thursday.
Meanwhile, the total COVID-19 case count for the seven-day period ending Friday was pushing 10,000 — 9,862, to be exact — and averaging just over 1,400 a day.
The Nebraska surge comes as part of a wider increase in cases in the nation as a whole. The United States recorded its own two-day string of records, topping 100,000 new cases for the first time Wednesday and jumping above 121,000 on Thursday.
Douglas County reported 565 new cases Friday, again based on Thursday’s results. The number eclipsed the 486 cases the county had reported a day earlier. The 486 had been a record.
A total of 720 Nebraskans were hospitalized with the virus statewide, also a new high and another grim mark of the virus’s spread.
We can't continue on this course. More cases = more hospitalizations = more deaths. Please do your part to avoid large gatherings, wear a mask and all the things we've been sharing with you over the course of the pandemic. 😷😷😷 https://t.co/HRi7gKEYcE— Nebraska Medicine (@NebraskaMed) November 6, 2020
Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department, urged residents Friday to stop holding large gatherings such as baby showers and weddings and to follow health guidelines, including wearing masks, avoiding crowds and keeping a distance from those outside their households.
“This is not the time to have these large gatherings,” she said. “This is the time to take it seriously.”
Pour also noted that 304 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in the Omaha metro area. That’s double the 159 who were hospitalized with the virus three weeks ago.
“It never has been as important as it is now,” Pour said. “I cannot urge you all enough. We can do this as a community.”
Pour also urged residents to talk with family members at the dinner table and resolve to take the virus seriously.
“It’s now,” she said. “It’s now.”
Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray, who represents North Omaha, had a similar message in the face of the community’s rising case counts. He and Pour spoke at a press conference launching the opening of a drive-thru TestNebraska testing pod on Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus.
“If we don’t get a handle on this,” Gray said, “we are going to rue the day that we weren’t prepared.”
Gray and others encouraged North Omaha residents to take advantage of the opportunity to get tested closer to their homes, calling testing another line of defense against COVID-19.
The testing at the North Omaha site is free, but those who want to get tested must register and take an assessment online at TestNebraska.com. The site will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Another pod will replace a drive-thru tent at Metro’s South Omaha campus next week. The Oak View Mall testing site eventually will be replaced by a pod as well. The state has a total of 53 testing sites throughout Nebraska.
“Our populations have enough barriers to health care,” said Doris Lassiter of the Nebraska Center for Healthy Families. “We don’t want testing to be one of them.”
Dr. Sade Kosoko-Lasaki, associate vice provost for health sciences at Creighton University, said 40 community health ambassadors representing North and South Omaha have been trained to help answer questions about the virus and how to respond.
Lassiter said some of those ambassadors will be on site Saturday at the new test pod, handing out information and hand sanitizer.
The Charles Drew Health Center has been conducting about 250 tests a week for the past few weeks at its drive-thru testing site, said Kenny McMorris, the health center’s CEO. The drive-thru site is at 2915 Grant St.
After someone tests positive, the health center also provides advice on how to manage the illness in the home and connects them with other needed supports, from food pantries to disinfectant supplies.
Also Friday, officials in Pottawattamie County in Iowa said the county now is requiring that people wear face coverings when entering any county-owned building, including the Pottawattamie County Courthouse in Council Bluffs and some buildings in county parks.
Alan Kohll, owner of Total Wellness in Omaha, said he had filled 820 Friday appointments for COVID-19 by Thursday evening and expected to complete up to 900 tests by the end of Friday.
Kohll said he plans to open up his curbside testing center near 93rd and H Court, which offers rapid antigen testing, on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to keep up with requests for appointments.
“Our demand,” he said, “has just surged.”