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Lancaster County records two new deaths from COVID-19, bringing total to 35
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Lancaster County records two new deaths from COVID-19, bringing total to 35

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The Lincoln-Lancaster County COVID-19 risk dial remains in the elevated orange level after a week that saw 457 new cases reported and five deaths.

Two deaths -- a man in his 80s who had been hospitalized and a woman in her 90s who was in a nursing home -- were announced Friday, raising the local pandemic death toll to 35. An additional 87 cases increased the county’s figure to 7,912, with 3,439 confirmed recoveries.

More than 450 cases have been reported in the county each week since Sept. 1, reaching what Health Director Pat Lopez called a “concerning level.”

“Since the beginning of September, we have had over 3,700 new cases,” she said at the mayor’s coronavirus briefing Friday. “This represents about 50% of all the cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic. This has been a major factor in pushing us up to elevated orange on the risk dial.

“Over the past three weeks, 40.6% of all new cases have been between the ages of 30 and 59. This age group represents the majority of working adults in our community. The actions of these adults are further spreading the virus throughout the community and affecting all age groups.”

Until last week, the risk dial, which is set based on the number of cases, positivity rate, testing capacity, contact tracing and hospital capacity, had not been in the high orange level since it was implemented in May.

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None of the dial’s criteria are in green, its lowest level, as the positivity rate remains in double digits, slow test reporting has made contact tracing late and difficult and the number of hospitalizations has remained high, with the average daily number of COVID-19 hospitalizations increasing from 18 in August to 40 in September to 60 in October.

One new death, 111 new coronavirus cases reported in Lancaster County

Of the 55 hospitalized COVID-19 patients Friday, 24 were from Lancaster County.

Friday’s briefing took place a few hours after Gov. Pete Ricketts announced a new state directed health measure that reduces indoor gathering capacity, requires patrons at bars and restaurants to be seated and limits the size of groups seated at wedding and funeral receptions.

The new measure, implemented because of an increasing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, moves the state toward the Phase 3 guidelines that have remained in place in Lancaster County.

“At a glance, what I see is a movement more to align with Lincoln-Lancaster County, which is great because we have been in Phase 3 over the past weeks because we have been monitoring multiple indicators, not just hospital data,” Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said of the new state DHM.

“We’ll be making some minor adjustments. But, in large part, I think we're coming closer together as a state and a county as a result of the governor's kind of reversal of some of the Phase 4 that he had implemented in the past.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com. On Twitter @KentWolgamott  

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Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott, the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award, has written about arts and entertainment for Lincoln newspapers since 1985, reviewing thousands of movies and concerts and hundreds of art exhibitions.

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