Coronavirus cases may be stabilizing in Nebraska, but hospitalizations in the Omaha metro area are on a worrisome upward climb, said a University of Nebraska Medical Center infectious disease expert.

“We just keep building,” said Dr. Angela Hewlett, medical director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. “That’s what I’m worried about. It’s not a big surge, but a gradual building up over the last couple of weeks.”

Hewlett spoke Thursday evening during an NET town hall with Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The medical center is at 80% capacity, “which is pretty significant,” Hewlett said. Some patients are sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Hewlett said there can be about a month delay between infection and hospitalization, which can complicate understanding an outbreak. The disease has hospitalized healthy young people in Omaha. Others have underlying conditions as minor as high blood pressure.

Ricketts said he feels comfortable loosening restrictions because the state is better prepared to respond than it was at the start of the outbreak. Testing, contact tracing and medical supplies have been beefed up, he said.

People need to be serious about wearing masks in public, Ricketts and Hewlett said.

“One sick person in a room can infect a lot of people, and that’s the scary part,” Hewlett said. “I’ll tell you, now is the time to be wearing a mask.”


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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Email: nancy.gaarder@owh.com

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