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COVID cases decrease in Nebraska
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COVID cases decrease in Nebraska

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Nebraska saw its coronavirus-related cases and hospitalizations decrease last week, providing a bit of a break in what had been a long upward trend.

Nebraska saw its coronavirus-related cases and hospitalizations decrease last week, providing a bit of a break in what had been a long upward trend.

The state tallied 5,435 cases in the week ending Friday, down from 7,052 the prior week, according to a World-Herald analysis of federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

While about half of states saw decreases, Nebraska’s was among the highest by percentage. But nationwide, cases continue to trend upward.

Nebraska hospitals, meanwhile, saw their first relief after a month of steadily rising numbers of COVID-19 patients. The count dropped from a peak of 633 on Dec. 13 to 579 by the end of last week. Hospitalizations remain about 50% above levels a month ago.

Some 35 deaths were reported last week, according to the CDC, bringing the state’s pandemic total to 3,298. The state now has recorded 327,858 cases of COVID-19, according to the state’s hospital capacity dashboard.

Dr. James Lawler, a co-executive director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Global Center for Health Security, said Nebraska has seen fluctuations in COVID-19 numbers for months. He expects to see downturns and troughs. But he doesn’t expect a downturn overall. Instead, he sees a “high likelihood” of an increase when the state gets hit with the brunt of the fast-spreading omicron variant in the next couple of weeks.

Some 59.2% of Nebraska’s population has been vaccinated, up half a percentage point from the previous week but still trailing the 61.4% U.S. rate.

Of 60,000 shots administered last week, almost two-thirds were boosters. Some 39.6% of fully vaccinated Nebraska adults have now received boosters, well above the 32% national rate.

But Nebraska continues to lag in vaccinating children. Only 36.6% of children ages 5 to 17 have received at least one dose, below the 40.2% U.S. rate and ranking 28th among states.

Nebraska’s child vaccination rate is less than half the rates of top states, including New Hampshire at 95% and West Virginia at 88%.

Those states have made concerted efforts to vaccinate children. New Hampshire set up clinics in schools and in McDonald’s restaurants. In Nebraska, the Douglas County Health Department has held vaccination clinics in middle and high schools, an effort that continues this week.

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice launched a child vaccination campaign called “Do It for Babydog,” named after the governor’s French bulldog. Getting vaccinated made students eligible to win educational savings funds of up to $100,000 in a series of drawings.

The Ricketts administration has not launched a vaccination campaign aimed specifically at Nebraska children, although the governor has repeatedly urged the state’s residents to get vaccinated.

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and the Nebraska Department of Education launched a Max the Vax campaign earlier this month aimed at keeping kids healthy and in school.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings.

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