Throughout the spring and summer months many health experts had warned that the nation may experience an increase in Covid cases as we moved into fall. The past few weeks have proven to be active for positive cases in Dawson County.
The rise in local positive cases prompted a virtual Town Hall Meeting in Gothenburg on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 13. Dr. Carol Shackleton of Gothenburg Health was the first to address those in attendance.
“It’s real, and it’s getting worse,” said Dr. Shackleton in reference to the coronavirus. “We are doing more tests, but are also seeing more cases. What can you be doing? Same old same old - wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, do not touch your face, protect your neighbors. If you are an asymptomatic carrier you have no clue at all that you could be spreading this to your friends and neighbors.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the age group seeing the biggest increase in the number of cases are the 18-29 year-olds, with 20 new cases in the county in the past four weeks. However, Dr. Shackleton noted that the group at greatest risk is those over the age of 55. While that age group accounts for only 23% of the positive cases, it also accounts for 67% of hospitalized cases and 91% of deaths.
Gothenburg is not the only area seeing an increase in cases. As of Sunday evening, Kearney Regional, Great Plains and Good Samaritan were all unable to take transfers and UNMC was at 98% capacity. Broken Bow’s hospital was also on surge capacity by the end of last week.
Dr. Shackleton said she understands people’s frustration, but continuing to be diligent is necessary. “If we all just say we’re tired of this and not wear our masks anymore, our cases and death rate will skyrocket,” she said.
Dr. Aravind Menon presented some numbers specific to the Gothenburg community. “Gothenburg’s case load is greater than Cozad’s but less than Lexington’s,” he said. “We saw a small spike in July and August and have been seeing a slightly gradual increase in cases over the past four weeks or so. Since July we have done just over 1,000 tests and had 82 positives in Gothenburg. We are seeing a total of nine new cases in a week, which I’m not sure qualifies as a spike. Gothenburg is looking pretty good - all of the preventive measures are working.”
Gothenburg Health Administrator Mick Brant said the facility currently has one ventilator and three anesthesia machines that can be used as vents. “We have about as many beds as we have vents for,” he said. “We have been running the highest inpatient census in the last month that we have ever run, and most of those are covid patients. None of those are on vents - the issue is beds. We’ve gone from 12 to 15 beds and have a covid wing with seven beds. I think that’s what the bigger hospitals are seeing as well; not necessarily vent capacity but bed capacity. These patients take a lot longer to get well. These patients are also difficult to take care of, and staffing is an issue. We are all trying to find more nurses - our nurses are working on avg at least 1-2 extra shifts per week.”
TestNebraska is continuing to offer free coronavirus testing in the YMCA parking lot on Tuesdays, from 11 am to 1 pm. The next date is Tuesday, Oct. 20. Testing is FREE but limited, so please make sure to sign-up in advance.