OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A group of infectious disease experts is urging Nebraskans to remain vigilant about social distancing as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state continue to rise.
Six scientists and physicians from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and its hospital partner, Nebraska Medicine, said the state is entering a dangerous period this fall as coronavirus cases increase, cooler weather drives more activities indoors and influenza season approaches. And Nebraska officials have eliminated most restrictions related to the coronavirus in favor of voluntary guidelines.
"We're at record numbers and going up, so we know we need to do more in terms of restricting those opportunities that allow the virus to spread," said Dr. James Lawler.
The doctors urged Nebraskans to wear masks, avoid large gatherings of people, stay home if they are sick and try to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others when in public, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Local rules require masks in Omaha and Lincoln but there is no statewide mask mandate in Nebraska.
The state reported 452 new cases of coronavirus and two new deaths Monday, bringing to 48,259 cases of COVID-19 and 503 deaths since the pandemic began.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus grew to a new record of 271 - well above the spring peak of 232 set on May 27.
Nebraska's rate of infection ranked 11th-highest among states, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 12.58% on Sept. 21 to 13.1% on Monday.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has also increased over the past two weeks from 392.57 new cases per day on Sept. 21 to 534.86 new cases per day on Monday.
Nebraska officials said that even with the recent rise in cases roughly 30% of the state's intensive care beds and 79% of the ventilators remain available.
Gov. Pete Ricketts has said that officials are working with hospitals statewide to make sure they aren't overwhelmed with virus cases. He says the hospital statistics show the state's medical facilities still have capacity to treat more patients.