LINCOLN – The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) Monday unveiled the COVID-19 Risk Dial. The color-coded dial depicts the phase of the pandemic in Lincoln and Lancaster County and provides specific guidance for residents to protect themselves and others and prevent the spread of the virus.

On Monday, the dial showed the risk of COVID-19 spread in Lancaster County was at the upper end of the “high” part of the dial, but not in the severe section. The other levels are low risk and moderate risk.

During a period of “high” risk, the recommendations include staying home, wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, monitoring for illness and disinfecting surfaces, according to LLCHD. At-risk or vulnerable individuals including people over the age of 65 or anyone with underlying health conditions should stay at home as much as possible, rely on others for help with needs outside the home and distance themselves from anyone working outside of the home.

The COVID-19 Risk Dial was developed by a team from LLCHD, Lincoln Fire and Rescue and City Communications. Scott Holmes, manager of the Environmental Public Health Division at LLCHD, said the goal of the dial is to provide a simple tool to help residents know what actions and behaviors they can take to protect their own health and the health of others. The dial will be updated every Friday using local data to determine the risk. The main factors to be considered include the following:

- The increase or decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases

- The increase or decrease in the percent of tests that are positive

- The availability of testing

- The ability of the Health Department to conduct investigations and contact tracing

- The number of people hospitalized from COVID-19

- The capacity of the local health care system

- The availability of personal protective equipment and critical medical equipment.

“Many of us check the long-range forecast to plan for what kind of weather to expect,” Holmes said. “The COVID-19 Risk Dial can help residents know how level of risk of COVID-19 spread in the community and the precautions you can take to protect your health in the coming week.”

The COVID-19 Risk Dial show the level of risk using four colors to represent the phases described in the Federal Guidance on Reopening America, Johns Hopkins University guidance for Governors on reopening States, and guidance documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For each risk color, specific recommendations are provided for physical distancing, face covering, hand washing, illness monitoring and disinfection, both for outside the home and at home. Specific guidance is included for people at risk for complications due to COVID-19.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 647 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lancaster County, with two deaths reported. There was a dramatic rise in the number of cases reported last week, with 307 positive tests reported during the week ending on May 9 alone and 173 the week before.

Of the total cases, 371 were infected through community exposure, while the source of infection for just over 200 cases is unknown.

Over 2,000 tests were administered in the week ending May 9. A total of 6,636 tests have been administered in the county.

A new (Directed Health Measure) for Lancaster County was signed by Lopez on May 8 and went into effect on Monday and is in effect through June 30. For a more detailed look at the DHM, go to Page 2.

Symptoms of the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19 illness, have been expanded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, repeated muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell.

Those who experience these symptoms are urged to access drive-through testing offered by Bryan Health and CHI Health St. Elizabeth. Residents can begin this process with a free online risk assessment available at BryanHealth.com and CHIHealth.com.

If testing is recommended, individuals will be given an order and referred to one of the testing sites. Only those with an order and referral from Bryan Health or CHI Health St. Elizabeth, or an order from their doctor are permitted at the drive-through sites. Those who need assistance may contact LLCHD at 402-441-8006.

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