What the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week labeled a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" continues to pick up steam in both Nebraska and across the country.
Nebraska posted its fourth straight weekly increase in COVID-19 cases last week, recording 690 new cases in the week ending Thursday. That was up from 489 the previous week, according to CDC data analyzed by The World-Herald.
The state's 41% case growth for the week was still only 40th among states, largely because cases are surging across the country. The U.S. as a whole logged 39,700 cases Friday, averaging 29,600 new cases a day on a seven-day moving average. That's up from just under 11,500 cases a day a month ago. South Dakota was the only state in the nation that did not see an increase last week.
Federal health officials warned Friday and over the weekend that cases, while far from last fall's dizzying peak, are likely to increase in the coming weeks and continue to be concentrated in areas with low vaccination rates. Helping fuel the increase is the more contagious delta variant.
“Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a White House briefing.
Iowa had the nation's seventh-largest growth in cases last week, its weekly numbers up 93%. But both Nebraska and Iowa have relatively low per capita case rates, at roughly half of the U.S. rate. And both continue to tally cases at far lower rates than they did last fall.
But three other states bordering Nebraska ranked in the top 10 for new per capita cases, including Missouri at No. 2, Wyoming at No. 7 and Kansas at No. 9. Missouri's case rate currently is six times that of Nebraska. Topping the chart was Arkansas.
Accompanying the climbing case numbers are increases in hospitalizations and deaths.
Eighty Nebraskans, on average, were hospitalized with COVID-19 last week, up from 56 the preceding week. The number of daily new hospital admissions doubled.
Nebraska also recorded 13 deaths last week, the most since May. Those additions brought the state's total toll to 2,275.
Vaccinations picked up slightly during the week. Some 66.1% of Nebraskans 18 and older have received at least one dose, up one-half of one percent from the previous week. But at that rate, it will be months before the state hits the 70% goal President Joe Biden set for July 4. Only 21 states have reached it so far.