We're now about 20 months into the COVID era, and the latest numbers from the Douglas County Health Department reflect 83,089 reported cases here in the Omaha metro. Of these, we've tragically lost 788 people who are not statistics. They were loved ones, friends, and neighbors. Do not mistake my next statement for a lack of care for these people.
These deaths are less than 1% of all reported cases.
I believe it's reasonable to assume there are more cases than those reported to the health department. I also believe, in looking at the details provided daily from the department, several of these deaths are people who are "seasoned citizens" with underlying health concerns who may have passed these past several months without COVID being a contributing factor. So the deaths attributed directly to COVID are very likely even less than "less than 1%."
Vaccines have undoubtedly helped, as well as other important medical advancements and treatments to keep people alive and off ventilators. These treatments are getting better every day, and there are even pills in the works to provide people relief at the first sign of symptoms so they recover more quickly and stay out of the hospital.
What about masks? Let's examine that, looking at two large, local school districts: Omaha Public has a mask mandate; Millard does not.
As of today, there are 56 reported cases in Millard (no mask mandate) out of 27,000 students and faculty members: 0.20% of the district's population.
Also as of today, there are 160 cases in Omaha (mask mandate) out of 56,500 students and faculty members: 0.28% of the district's population.
These statistics reflect that there is no difference whether students are masked in the classroom.
There are currently six patients in Douglas County hospital beds under the age of 17 with COVID (no details have been provided about any other underlying conditions). This number has remained consistent over the past month, following sincere concerns that the number would explode once school started in early August. Thankfully, it hasn't.
So ... why am I telling you this? Because we deserve some good, accurate news that reflects the reality of this situation. Too many reports are designed to cause people to be wary of one another, to get people fired, to frighten people into stubborn compliance, and tear society apart.
We're doing so much better than we legitimately feared 20 months ago, and there's reason for optimism.
Yes, our biggest test will be in late November, when we suffered the biggest spike here in Omaha with COVID hospitalizations last year. But with about 70% of our adult population here vaccinated, and the reality that the numbers I have shared with you include last year's spike, I still believe there's reason for optimism.