Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Thursday that daily updates to Nebraska's statewide COVID-19 dashboard are ending once again.
Ricketts said the seven-day average of COVID-19 patients in Nebraska has dropped below 10% of total hospitalizations in the state, the threshold he set for reinstating the daily dashboard. Therefore, the state will return to providing only weekly COVID-19 statistics, and local health districts will no longer be allowed to report statistics for individual counties with fewer than 20,000 people.
The state got rid of its original COVID-19 dashboard at the end of June after cases had dropped to their lowest levels of the pandemic. That move was criticized by public health officials, and the Department of Health and Human Services eventually started providing some weekly numbers. The new daily dashboard returned about a month ago as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations climbed.
Also, because of the drop in patients, Ricketts announced he was rescinding a directed health measure that suspended elective surgeries at the state's hospitals that could be safely postponed for at least four weeks.
It's unclear, however, how many hospitals will resume doing elective surgeries right away.
Bryan Health suspended any elective surgeries that required an overnight stay before Ricketts issued his DHM in late August and said in a statement that it is not prepared to resume them at the present time.
Dr. John Trapp, chief medical officer of Bryan Medical Center, said in a statement that the cancellation of the DHM is "an encouraging sign" that will allow the hospital system flexibility, but conditions right now do not favor resuming elective procedures.
"At the present time, we will continue with a limited and measured approach with frequent reassessment. A persistently high patient census that is routinely above our physical capacity remains a reality for Bryan Medical Center and many other hospitals," Trapp said.
On Wednesday, Bryan reported 59 COVID-19 patients. Trapp said the hospital system had to turn down 23 transfer requests from other hospitals because it had no beds open.
Dr. Cary Ward, chief medical officer of CHI Health, which owns St. Elizabeth hospital in Lincoln, said it would "continue to monitor the situation daily," with a goal to resume elective procedures "when possible."
A spokesman for Nebraska Medicine in Omaha said it will not be reinstating suspended elective surgeries at this time.
As of Wednesday, COVID-19 patients were occupying 8% of regular adult hospital beds statewide but 25% of intensive-care beds.
In many areas of the state, however, COVID-19 patients still make up more than 10% of all patients. The health districts that include North Platte and Scottsbluff both reported 16% of their hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the percentages are 15% in the health district that includes Columbus, 14% in the district including Grand Island and 11% in Lincoln, according to the state dashboard.
Following Thursday's update of the dashboard, state officials will provide weekly updates on Wednesdays as long as COVID-19 hospitalizations remain below the 10% threshold.
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