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Nearly all Nebraska COVID hospital patients are unvaccinated

December 1, 2021 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska health officials said Wednesday that the vast majority of the COVID-19 patients who are filling the state’s hospitals are unvaccinated and many are younger adults.

The number of people hospitalized in Nebraska with the virus continues to climb and reached 555 on Tuesday, which was the highest it had been since last winter. The state said 14% of the hospitalized patients were between the ages of 20 and 44, and doctors at several of Nebraska’s biggest hospitals said younger patients have been showing up in intensive care units more often.

“The last couple months I have been seeing more and more 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds that are coming to the ICU severely ill with COVID-19,” said Dr. Robert Plambeck, a critical care doctor with CHI Health’s group of hospitals and clinics.

Although the number of hospitalizations remains well below last fall’s peak of 987, the state’s hospital capacity is strained because hospitals were already busy with other patients before COVID-19 cases increased this fall. The state said only 13% of the adult ICU beds and 20% of the pediatric ICU beds were available Tuesday.

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“We’re inundated. We’re struggling to take care of the people who come to our hospitals. We’re struggling to take care of the people who don’t have COVID who are here for a heart attack or a stroke or whatever,” said Dr. Adam Wells, who oversees intensive care at Nebraska Methodist Health System.

Dr. Brian Boer said nearly every COVID-19 patient he treats at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha is unvaccinated.

“The people that are getting admitted to the hospital — by and large like 95-plus percent — are unvaccinated, and that’s also who’s dying,” Boer said.

Dr. Matthew Donahue, the acting state epidemiologist, said unvaccinated Nebraskans are ten times more likely to be hospitalized than people who have been vaccinated. He said the spread of the coronavirus’ highly contagious delta variant has fueled the rise in cases.

“It has really been a prolonged delta surge that has hung out and hasn’t gone away as quickly as our previous one,” Donahue said.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska decreased over the past two weeks, going from about 864 per day on Nov. 15 to about 771 per day on Monday. But the number remains high.

The state’s vaccination campaign may get a boost from the release of a public service announcement Wednesday featuring popular former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, who also served in Congress, urging people to get the jab. A little over 57% of the state’s population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, which trails the national rate of 59.1%.

“COVID-19 is still a serious threat in Nebraska,” Osborne said in the announcement released by the state hospital association. “Our hospitals across the state from Scottsbluff to Omaha are at their limit.”