COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations slowly rising in Nebraska

BA.5 and BA.4 strains continue to spread
BA.5 and BA.4 strains continue to spread(MGN)
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 6:02 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Doctors in Nebraska are seeing a slight increase in COVID-19 patients in hospitals with the relatively new BA.4 and BA.5 strains. They said the majority of them aren’t on ventilators or in the ICU, and that’s thanks to the vaccine.

Doctors say just because the patients aren’t as sick or in the hospital, doesn’t mean it’s not just as dangerous as it was months ago.

“Newer strains don’t seem more severe than earlier strains but transmission seems to be higher,” Dr. David Quimby with CHI Health said.

There are more positive cases in Nebraska now than at this time last year, and Dr. Quimby expects that to rise more in the fall when school is back in session.

“If you have more infected people, just more of them are more likely to become ill,” Dr. Quimby said.

An infectious disease expert with Nebraska Medicine said this is not the time to think COVID-19 doesn’t exist anymore.

“The vaccine is so important. We know the vaccines provide much better protection, and we know the statistics have been consistent, that if you are have been vaccinated and up-to-date on vaccines, your risk of ending up in the hospital with severe diseases is much much lower than if you’re not vaccinated,” Dr. James Lawler, infectious disease expert with Nebraska Medicine, said.

Both Dr. Quimby and Dr. Lawler said the majority of people hospitalized are those older than 50 who have not been vaccinated or have not gotten their booster shot.

“Honestly, prevention is better than treatment,” Dr. Quimby said.

At Bryan Health in Lincoln, as of Tuesday, they had 17 patients hospitalized compared to 11 at this time last week. That number floated between 9 and 19 over the last three weeks. It’s a lot lower than their high this year which was 105 patients on January 27.

Dr. Kevin Reichmuth, a pulmonologist with Bryan Health, said although the past three weeks have been in a pretty stable state, they know BA.5 is spreading fast.

“I think we all are taking kind of a cautious sigh, but having a little bit of nervous energy not knowing what the future is going to hold,” Dr. Reichmuth said.

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