LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The number of people hospitalized for the coronavirus in Nebraska has fallen to its lowest level since mid-April, but residents still need to exercise caution to keep the virus from spreading, state officials said Friday.
Nebraska’s hospitals were treating 97 patients as of Thursday, down a high of 257 on May 27. The state has a total of hospital 3,907 beds, and 1,583 of those were available for patients as of Thursday evening.
“We continue to see declining hospitalizations, so that’s good news,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said at a news conference. “Our cases have been relatively steady, so that’s good news, too. But this only (will continue) if we continue to practice social distancing.”
Nebraska officials confirmed 198 new cases of the virus on Thursday and two new deaths, bringing the state totals to 20,623 cases and 284 deaths since the pandemic began.
State and private labs have tested 201,249 people so far, according to the state’s online tracking portal. More than 15,200 of the people diagnosed with the virus have since recovered.
Omaha’s Douglas County remains the hardest-hit county in Nebraska, with 7,773 known cases since the pandemic began and nearly 1,200 within the last 14 days.
Nebraska currently has 41% of its hospital beds available and 78% of its ventilators available, according to the state tracking system.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.
Ricketts said the state’s main virus-testing service, TestNebraska, also swabbed about 3,600 people on Tuesday. State officials fell short of their initial goal of providing 3,000 tests per day by the end of May, but have since managed to increase the number.
Nebraska announced the $27 million, no-bid contract with Utah-based Nomi Health and other firms on April 21. They had hoped to hit the testing target within five weeks.
Nebraska has gradually eased social-distancing restrictions as the number of people hospitalized with the virus remained stable. On Friday, Ricketts urged residents to visit the state parks as a summer getaway instead of traveling to virus hot spots.
Nebraska Game and Parks Administrator Jim Swenson said the parks have seen an uptick in fishing and other activities this summer as more residents sought vacations that don’t require extensive travel.