Nebraska officials encourage healthy holidays noting COVID-19 ‘never going away’

Gov. Pete Ricketts
Gov. Pete Ricketts
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 4:34 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Gov. Pete Ricketts and the state’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone held a news conference Monday to encourage Nebraskans to prioritize their health this holiday season.

Both Ricketts and Dr. Anthone pushed COVID-19 vaccinations but also encouraged Nebraskans to ask their doctors to prescribe monoclonal antibody treatments should they contract COVID-19. The treatment is under an emergency use authorization, as COVID-19 vaccinations have been.

Ricketts said if you get COVID-19 and have symptoms, monoclonal antibody treatments have a good chance of keeping you out of the hospitals. If your doctor won’t prescribe it, and don’t have a good reason for that, go get another doctor, he said.

Dr. Anthone said Nebraska has 86 infusion sites throughout the state, even in smaller communities, giving about 1,400 infusions per week. Those sites are mapped online at Nebraskans can also contact the DHHS COVID-19 information line at 531-249-1873.

Nebraska has been allocated to 800-900 doses of monoclonal antibodies by the federal government, but Dr. Anthone said that the state has been able to secure an extra 600-800 doses each week by demonstrating the demand for the treatment.

Dr. Anthone also talked about remdesivir, for severe cases in hospitals, and two new oral therapeutics that may be out in coming weeks. He also encouraged eating right, getting exercise, and taking Vitamin D and Zinc.

The latest monoclonal antibody treatments are available for ages 12 and older who have severely compromised immune systems, Dr. Anthone said.

With a message contrary to that of Nebraska hospitals on Thursday, the governor referred to hospital capacity as “robust”.

“We still have robust hospital capacity,” Ricketts said, noting that hospitals in metro areas have been hovering around 10%-15% availability, or 85%-90% full.

Nebraska COVID-19 hospitalizations were lower this week: On Monday, Nebraska’s respiratory illness dashboard showed 523 patients were being treated for COVID-19. That’s down from 584 reported on Friday and from this year’s peak: Nebraska hospitals were caring for 637 COVID-19 patients on Dec. 13. The highest number recorded last year was 980 hospitalizations on Nov. 20, 2020.

Vaccination is still the best tool for fighting COVID-19, the governor said. He also encouraged Nebraskans to get tested ahead of gathering for the holidays, noting that nine out of 10 COVID-19 patients in hospitals are unvaccinated.

“Getting the COVID shot will help you build the antibodies so you reduce the severe reactions like going to the hospital or potentially dying from getting COVID,” Ricketts said. “Everybody needs to remember that this is going to be with us forever. The virus is never going away. The flu virus doesn’t go away; we have new shots every year for the flu virus. The COVID virus is going to be with us for a long, long time, so we’re going to have to manage this, and the best defense we have against that COVID virus is making sure we get the vaccine. It’ll help you build that immunity so that you can fight off the virus.”

WOWT 6 News contributed to this report.

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