OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska reported nearly 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus, and doctors in rural areas expressed concern about the high rate of infections across the state.
Nebraska's positivity rate ranked sixth-highest among the states. The state's rate of new cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks registered at 461.47 on Wednesday, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Rebecca Steinke, who is medical director of the Central District Health Department in Grand Island, said virus cases in that area have been rising in the past few days, so it's important that people take precautions.
"I know people are tired of being told to wear a mask, and they don't want a (mask) mandate," she told the Omaha World-Herald. "But they also want their kids in school and their businesses open."
Dr. Jenn Harney, a family doctor with Memorial Community Health in Aurora, said a number of people in her community who don't think COVID-19 is a problem in rural areas have not been taking precautions. She said she hopes that will change.
"That's what I am asking of rural Nebraska," she said. "Help us slow the spread and move the curve back down so we can get ahead of coronavirus and protect our people."
Harney said the hospital in Aurora is finding it increasingly difficult to find a larger hospital that will accept critically ill patients who need to be transferred.
Officials with the state's largest hospitals have said they still have capacity to manage the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
Nebraska eliminated most of its virus restrictions last month in favor of voluntary guidelines. Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts has said state officials are monitoring the number of virus cases and hospitalizations closely as both remain near record levels, and they will make changes to the state's approach if needed.
State health officials reported 924 new cases of COVID-19 and three new deaths Wednesday to give the state 54,467 cases and 530 deaths linked to the virus since the pandemic began. That is just under the daily record of 1,085 cases reported last Friday, according to the state's online virus tracker.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus in Nebraska also remained high at 311 Wednesday - just under the previous day's record of 315. State officials said 26% of all hospital beds, 24% of the intensive care beds and 76% of the ventilators remained available across Nebraska.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Nebraska climbed over the past two weeks from 13.28% on Sept. 30 to 14.32% on Wednesday.