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COVID-19

COVID cases at nine-month low in Nebraska

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Dr. Anthony Fauci said this weekend that the U.S. is likely to see an uptick in cases, but not a surge.

While concerns are rising across the globe about a new omicron subvariant, Nebraska continues to see falling COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Cases fell by nearly half in Nebraska last week, from 650 to 354, according to a World-Herald analysis of federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The last time Nebraska saw so few cases in a week was nine months ago, in early June 2021.

Nebraska cases have now fallen eight straight weeks since the highly contagious omicron variant peaked in January at more than 29,000 reported weekly cases. They’re down almost 99% since then.

Nebraska also continues to have one of the nation’s lowest per-capita case rates, ranking fourth after South Carolina, Kansas and Nevada.

In a number of European countries, cases once again are on the rise as the new omicron subvariant BA.2 takes hold. It’s thought to be 30% to 50% more contagious than omicron.

The subvariant also has been on the increase in some parts of the United States, making up 39% of cases in New York and New Jersey as of March 12, according to CDC forecasting. In New England, the subvariant accounted for 38.6% of cases. BA.2 also had gained ground on the West Coast. In the four-state region made up of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, however, an estimated 13.8% of cases were BA.2. Nebraska as of Monday was reporting 18 cases of BA.2.

Cases in the U.S. as a whole remain at their lowest point since just after July 4, before the delta wave began. Only a half-dozen states are seeing an increase in cases right now, all at relatively modest levels.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that the U.S. likely will see an uptick in cases, as has been seen in some European nations, particularly the United Kingdom.

COVID trends in the U.S. have tended to follow those in the U.K. by three or more weeks.

“Hopefully, we won’t see a surge,” Fauci said. “I don’t think we will.”

Fauci told “PBS News Hour” on Thursday that the rollback of COVID restrictions in the U.K. and BA.2’s increased transmissibility are fueling the increase in cases there.

Such restrictions also have been increasingly peeled back in the United States, including in Nebraska. Even schools that once required masks have made them optional. Many are allowing kids to eat in lunchrooms, turning on drinking fountains and planning proms and field trips.

Fauci said the key question is whether an increase in cases in a few weeks would lead to an increase in severe disease that could result in more hospitalizations and deaths.

Some health experts think the immunity provided by vaccination and the vast number of omicron cases will tamp down potential increases. Others say the large number of Americans who haven’t gotten boosted could leave vulnerable pockets.

Nebraska health officials have been encouraging residents who haven’t done so to get vaccinated and boosted. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that its advisory committee will meet April 6 to discuss possible future booster doses and the process for selecting what strains to include.

Fauci and other federal health officials have been urging Congress to pass an additional $22.5 billion in COVID relief funds for treatments, tests, vaccines and research, warning that health officials will have to scale back without it.

Republican leaders in Congress, however, have argued that the administration should repurpose COVID funds that haven’t yet been spent.

How an impasse on funding might affect Nebraska is not yet clear. State health officials said in a statement that they are talking with their federal counterparts and are closely monitoring the proceedings in Congress.

Meanwhile, the number of Nebraskans hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped to an average of 161 a day last week, down 24% from the previous week. By Sunday, the figure had dropped to 123.

Nebraska recorded 21 confirmed or probable COVID-19-related deaths last week, bringing the total for the pandemic to 4,047. The state has reported 477,198 cases.

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Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

Reporter - Metro News

Henry is a general assignment reporter, but his specialty is deep dives into state issues and public policy. He's also into the numbers behind a story, yet to meet a spreadsheet he didn't like. Follow him on Twitter @HenryCordes. Phone: 402-444-1130.

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