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Nebraska virus cases surge as omicron continues to spread

January 4, 2022 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The number of new coronavirus cases has surged in Nebraska as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads more widely in the state.

Nebraska health officials reported 8,575 new cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week. That’s 47% more than the 5,826 cases reported the previous week and the highest weekly total since early December 2020.

And in the state’s largest county Douglas County health officials said the 4,731 cases reported last week set a new record for the pandemic and topped the previous seven-day high of 4,238 cases reported during the peak in November 2020.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has more than doubled over the past two weeks from 768.71 new cases per day on Dec. 19 to 1,733.57 new cases per day on Sunday.

That raises additional concerns about hospital capacity. Nebraska hospitals continue treating a large number of COVID-19 patients with 532 people hospitalized Monday. That number is down somewhat from the recent peak of 637 set on Dec. 13, but hospitals are also seeing large numbers of other patients and flu cases are on the rise.

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“Our health system is going to be in pretty dire straits,” said Dr. James Lawler, who is a co-executive director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Global Center for Health Security.

The omicron variant now accounts for 30% to 50% of the positive test samples that are being genetically sequenced in the state, Nebraska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone said Monday. But at one of the state’s biggest labs in Omaha, the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, omicron accounted for 77% of the latest batch of samples.

“Within a week, a week and a half, essentially everything will be omicron,” Lawler said.