OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A Lincoln doctor who works for the Nebraska National Guard expressed optimism Monday that the pandemic is nearing an end as vaccine shipments arrive, but he warned that the state’s situation will remain “very tenuous” until doses are widely available.
Dr. Kevin Reichmuth, a pulmonologist, made the comments as he sought to dispel myths that have circulated on social media about the new coronavirus vaccines. Reichmuth was among the first Nebraska residents to get vaccinated for the coronavirus last week.
“This has opened a light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a long tunnel to go through,” he said at a news conference with Gov. Pete Ricketts. “We have some very tenuous times coming up here in the next several months, and all of those things up until this vaccine becoming widely available are going to be critical.”
Reichmuth spoke as part of an effort to correct inaccurate claims about the new vaccines, including claims that they cause infertility, contain a microchip and trigger genetic changes in those who get them.
Ricketts said more than 8,700 people in Nebraska have received their initial doses already. The vaccinations are given in two doses, separated by three to four weeks to be fully effective. Ricketts said he asked Reichmuth to speak publicly because his office has received a lot of questions about the vaccines, which are safe and very effective.
The state’s infection figures improved on Sunday, with 582 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, down from 598 the day before. That number has been steadily declining since setting a record of 987 on Nov. 20, but it remains more than 2.5 times higher than what it was on Oct. 1.
Currently, 14% of the state’s hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. If the seven-day rolling average of that figure remains below 15%, the state may further relax its social distancing restrictions.
Nebraska reported 967 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11 new deaths on Sunday, raising its totals since the pandemic started to 156,382 cases and 1,486 deaths.
Associated Press writer Josh Funk contributed to this report.
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