The months of COVID disruption have weighed heavily on us all. It’s a wearying, frustrating time. But despite the difficulty, we must persevere by using sensible preventive habits. In Nebraska, Iowa and many other states, infections rates have risen dramatically of late, and health experts are sounding a warning we all need to heed.
“We’re going (down) the wrong path,” Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department, said last week. “We’re going straight up. We had more hospitalizations (with COVID-19 Tuesday) yesterday than we’ve ever had in this pandemic.”
On Monday, the Douglas County Health Department for the first time moved its risk dial into the red. That indicates the most serious risk of COVID-19 spread.
Dr. James Lawler, a director at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Global Center for Health Security, pointed to how the infection rates have gone up not only in Nebraska’s urban areas but in rural areas as well. “We have entered a dangerous phase of the pandemic in Nebraska ... the epidemic is really widespread across the state.”
The average daily number of COVID cases per capita in some rural Nebraska counties well exceeds what New York City experienced this year at the peak of its cases, Lawler said. “This is a really serious situation. We are certainly at risk for our health systems becoming overwhelmed.”
In response, Gov. Pete Ricketts has imposed a new set of public health restrictions to stay in place through at least Nov. 30. Hospitals must preserve 10% of their bed and intensive care capability to care for incoming COVID-19 patients. Indoor gatherings must be at no more than 50% of capacity. The directive requires customers patronizing bars and restaurants to remain seated, with table sizes limited to eight people. Wedding and funeral receptions must limit table sizes to eight people.
These are difficult but necessary steps to reduce the chances for further virus spread. In addition to the familiar measures such as hand washing and mask wearing, preventive habits are especially needed in group situations. The arrival of colder weather will compel people indoors, after all, and Thanksgiving is not that far away.
Our society continues to face a preeminent health threat, with the risks now on the increase. If this threat is to be met, we each must act responsibly, for our own protection and that of others.