2021 December 21, Tuesday
Terra Uhing, Executive Director, Three Rivers Public Health Department, spoke with us today about the current state of COVID-19 in the Blair, Nebraska area. As is always the case, she was professional, forthright, and, answered questions you won’t see her face from other media outlets.
(1) BLAIRTODAY: You always talk about how things change with COVID over time. What is the current state of COVID in the three counties you serve?
TERRA UHING OF THREE RIVERS HEALTH: About two to four weeks ago, we had a pretty substantial increase in our number of cases – for a lot of different reasons. But, we have quite a bit of community spread going on. We don’t have adequate testing, and, we don’t have people following public health recommendations because really, for lack of a better term, people are “over Covid.”
This past Sunday, we hit our highest number of inpatient COVID-19 hospitalized since November of 2020. That was, I think 632 or 634 across the state. That’s not just here in our jurisdiction. So, right now, instead of just taking care of people with COVID, we have hospitals incredibly full with every other health condition as well. Not just COVID. Medically, we’re not in a good spot with hospital capacity. Influenza just started to really spike within the last two weeks. In addition to that, they have “omicron”, which has been identified here in Nebraska, but I guarantee you it’s in our communities. It just has not been identified.
The good thing with “omicron,” is we believe it’s going to be less severe. But we haven’t had a lot of cases here in Nebraska to really be able to see if that’s the case. But, the bad thing about it is it appears to be much more contagious. We’re really watching what the east coast is doing right now, New York, um, is having some pretty significant challenges – trying to watch what the UK is doing, and, South Africa.
I think I’ve told you every time we’ve talked, Don, it changes day by day. Sometimes minute-by-minute. I still stand behind though, that vaccination is still one of the best tools – if people are so-inclined – because the great thing we are seeing is in those that are vaccinated, it is helping to protect against less severe disease and illness.
Now, I’ll also tell you, we have had vaccinated people that have been in the hospital. We have had vaccinated people that have passed away. But the vaccine is still predominantly doing its job while trying to protect against severe disease and illness.
We’ve hit a milestone within the health district: “Fully-vaccinated,” here in Dodge county, we’re at 56.53%. And, ironically, Don, you guys in Washington county, you’re at 56.19%. So you were just steps behind, not very far. Whereas, Saunders county is at 54.48%. So this is zero to the oldest person… And, keep in mind, anybody zero to four is not eligible for immunizations yet.
The other number that’s interesting, 16 and older, fully vaccinated – and, this does not include boosters, these are just vaccinations… Pfizer, one and two doses, Moderna one and two doses, or, Johnson and Johnson one dose: Washington county is at 69.39% (16 and older), Dodge county is at 72.13%, and, Saunders county is at 67.76%.
But, what I’ve really been watching, in particular with Washington county, there were a few days here, a couple of weeks ago where Washington county actually surpassed Dodge county for a few days on the percent of the total population who was “fully-vaccinated.” So, I thought that was interesting.
(2) BLAIRTODAY: You and I have a different belief about the “vaccinations,” and, I don’t see any way I’ll change your mind on them.
And, I don’t see any piece of evidence you’ll give me, on this call, that will change my mind. So instead of talking about it from that perspective, I have some questions about the “why” people believe what they believe.
I represent a group of people – and, I don’t mean like an official group, but there are many of us who think COVID is real, we don’t think it’s a conspiracy theory. We know people who died from it, and I’ve got people in my family that died. I have friends, in fact, more friends of mine who received shots have gotten sick with COVID than not.
We also know until March or April of 2020 masks were said to not work in pandemics. We know science tells us these “vaccines” were never going to do what they were purported to do. They haven’t. And there’s no way you can intellectually agree the “85 to 90% effective,” “life back to normal” ever happened. And you cannot agree breakthrough cases that were never supposed to happen, didn’t happen. And, you can’t say the “vaccines” stop transmission. In fact, Fauci says you have to wear a mask, even if you’re vaccinated on planes, in stores, and over the holidays hanging out.
Does Three Rivers Health understand why people like me exist? Why we believe what we do about the “vaccines”? I’m not saying we’re right – because you’re not going to agree with me whether I’m right or not. But, do you understand why people doubt every single narrative that has come to pass, not as predicted. Do you understand why people are questioning this?
It’s interesting to hear you say, how exciting it is people are getting “vaccinated”?! There’s also a large number of people who aren’t crazy – they’re doctors, healthcare workers in the field, frontline workers – there are people who aren’t getting “vaccinated”, who you can’t say are crazy. Bottom line is it’s like, you can say some yokel from the backwoods sees a UFO or Bigfoot is nuts. But, you can’t say that about an Air Force pilot who files a report. I can give you a list of hundreds of doctors in this country who won’t “vaccinate” themselves or their kids.
Do you at least understand why it is people disagree with Three Rivers Health on this?
TERRA UHING OF THREE RIVERS HEALTH: You bring up a good variety of points there. So number one, the way this entire pandemic has been communicated, from the federal level, from when it started has been atrocious. My first example would be, and you’re absolutely right with the masks: “No, don’t wear a mask. They don’t work.” And, you remember that March 2020, “don’t wear a mask.” We’ll come to find out that the thought process on that was to save the masks for the medical professionals that were taking care of people, this and that, whatever reason they had, at that point, it really started, it put us all in a terrible position, especially when you look at miscommunication and mistrust.
Then, we had some really good things happening on a federal level. We had “Operation Warp Speed” that was started with President Trump’s foresight. And, if it hadn’t been for him, we would not have had “vaccines” available last December, a year ago, now. I think on the 22nd is actually when we started dispensing here at the health department. So, I can understand in the communities why there’s the mistrust – the misconception.
But, then, you know, for people like me, just to kind of, you know, spin it back now to you a little bit, I sit on the calls. I listened to the doctors. I see the hospital reports within our health district and what’s happening across the state, Don. And, it is unbelievably heartbreaking. You know, we have young people that have had no underlying health conditions, that have passed away because of COVID. And, when you see that time and time and time again, it really starts to wear on people.
And that’s where you have somebody like me, that’s sitting here seeing the status, seeing these stories, you know, having to talk to funeral homes, having to make calls, talking to the general community. It puts us – it’s a horrible spot to be in.
So, whereas I can appreciate and understand how we’ve got to this. I also, from my standpoint, I mean, we see it right here, you know, of what’s happening in front of us. And, it feels like our hands are tied and we can’t do anything to be helpful when they’re the tool. It’s not the “end all, be all” tool. But, that’s one tool to help protect against severe disease and illness.
(3) BLAIRTODAY: As much as I understand the issue of being up close and personal and seeing this the way you do, according to even the most generous statistics, worldwide statistics of those who have died of COVID, 0.4% – and, I’m using these CDC numbers, in the grand scope of their wide tent of how they even described this, 0.4% of those between zero and 20 years of age 0.4% of deaths are in that group. Dr. Fauci said himself just a week ago, only a hundred between the ages of five and 11 in the entire country. And, statistically you’re going to get 50 kids in the same group gets struck by lightning and the next year, it’s not a matter of whether kids are dying. No one denies that some kids are dying from a horrible, horrible infection. I’m curious when you look at the numbers, how do they, in any way, comport to the, the fear-mongering. When, you know, you absolutely know, that in the flu season of 2019 hospitals (in Omaha – note, in my discussion with Terra, I referenced Omaha and in my research beforehand saw a more general nationwide issue, and not specific to Omaha) were turning people away.
And , you know that for a fact. And, yet in a normal flu season, when we’ll get 500 dead kids in the country, we don’t see the entire country come to a screeching halt. So I don’t even want to debate you on, on whether or not those are true facts. They are true facts. So, why are people freaking out about this in a way that we don’t, when it’s the flu and by the way, so you understand. I hate the flu. I had the flu. My children will tell you I am a complete hypochondriac / germaphobe, which I am by the way. So for me, I don’t even want the flu.
So why is it with COVID, we keep hearing about children, children, children, why, when they represent the tiniest fraction, that if it were not COVID would not even make headlines.
TERRA UHING OF THREE RIVERS HEALTH: With kids, I think we’ve learned this probably more than ever as we get further and further into this, they are the ones who are transmitting this.
They might not get very sick, but they’re vectors. I truly believe that’s where a lot of our community spread comes from. No ill intent, no bad intent from anybody, but these kids are, are spreading COVID into our communities. Hence why we have outbreaks in some long-term care facilities and why we’ve had this and why we’ve had that.
I was looking back on some statistics with influenza here actually just last week. And, I think it was the 2018, 2019 flu year, I think across Nebraska, we had 25 deaths with adults, and, I believe we had three pediatric deaths. A few years before that, Don, I actually had one of the pediatric deaths here, within our health jurisdiction. And, I still remember that.
COVID is not going away. And, I think I told you this, the last time we visited, you know, it’s going to have to go from pandemic to endemic. Something like influenza that we live with. But the problem right now, with influenza, and, then now this new variant, they don’t know. And, with a medical system already at the capacity that it is, people don’t know what they’re going to do. You know, there’s been conversations in Omaha about implementing crisis standards of care. That’s where you have to, potentially, pick who would get a hospital bed, you know, or who would receive care, or, who would not.Terra Uhing, Executive Director, Three Rivers Health Department
They’ve done some really good things here in Nebraska. They’ve implemented the call line (where that helps the transfer center with the hospitals.) But, you know, the problem is, Don, as much as we want COVID to be done – and, me more than anybody – it is still here. There are people that are still getting very, very sick.
Dr. Matthew Donahue, he’s our state epidemiologist here in Nebraska – terrific, terrific physician… We were on a call this morning, that we have every week, and one of the statistics, and this is just in Nebraska, “vaccines” have helped keep 1500 to 2000 people out of the hopital. And, I don’t know what the timeframe is on that, I don’t know if that’s from January 1st, you know, through current or if it’s June 1st through current, I don’t have that. And, it also helped to prevent 500 deaths. So that’s pretty impactful when they have the data – and, that’s not nationwide. That’s Nebraska data.
(4) BLAIRTODAY: What’s happening now is less people are dying, but we don’t know if that’s because of the COVID “vaccines”. In fact, you just told me hospitals are overflowing right now. Like we haven’t seen since November of last year. So if you’re telling me the “vaccines” are stopping some, you know, tidal wave of people heading to the hospital, they aren’t. In fact, we are now seeing across the country a greater surge of cases than we’ve ever seen, and yet “vaccines” and masking and all that. And, I’m not here to debate you on whether or not you and I agree on the “vaccines” being good. I just want to know, and you’ve already answered this. Do you understand why people have questions about it? And, I think you do understand that.
TERRA UHING OF THREE RIVERS HEALTH: Nope. I completely understand. So that’s where, you know, I appreciate our conversations because. I think, you know, we’re always going to have to just disagree that we’re never going to agree, or agree to disagree, I guess is maybe the better way to say that.
I appreciate hearing your thought processes because it does give me a different perspective and which some people do think. So, I appreciate that. And, I appreciate the candid conversations.
(5) BLAIRTODAY: Terra, there are people on the internet – and, of course the internet is what it is – who really go after you. And, you and I have talked privately more than publicly about some of the stresses in your job. And, I just want to go on the record for anyone who reads this interview, that you are open to having these discussions. While, that is not the case with a lot of people (in your position). I’ve had people say, well, why don’t you go hard? Why don’t you? Number one, that’s not how I roll, but number two, you are literally in a position to just shut me down and not even talk to me. And, I appreciate your time, and, people need to understand that not everything has to come down to name-calling and demonization. So I really appreciate your time.
TERRA UHING OF THREE RIVERS HEALTH: Yes, and I appreciate you reaching out again and you know, like I said, I don’t mind having these conversations. Your candor is always professional. But, I have to tell you, and you can, you probably understand this more than anybody, there are some people, Don, they are just not, not nice people and those kind of conversations that I don’t have time, you know, because it’s not fair to me. And it’s not fair to my team, you know, to have to hear that.
I think I told you this the last time, I’m going to continue to be as transparent as I can. You know, the information is out on the websites that if people are interested, it’s there, and we try to provide the most up-to-date actual information for what’s happening, within our three counties.
(6) BLAIRTODAY: I appreciate your time, Terra as always. We’ll maybe talk a month or two down the road. You really do a job that anybody reading this couldn’t, and, wouldn’t want to step into. Because, here’s the truth, and, I want to end on a true fact we can both agree on: If you were anti-”vaccine,” anti-mask, when it comes to COVID, if you were that person you’d have the same amount of hate from the other side. You’re in a no-win situation.
TERRA UHING OF THREE RIVERS HEALTH: There’s always going to be one half that’s going to like “this way” and the other half, it will never matter. What I do is a lose-lose situation. I will never win.
(7) BLAIRTODAY: As far as I’m concerned, it’s not lose-lose when I talk with you, and, I really appreciate your time. It’s such an honor. Thanks for talking with me. We’ll talk again in a couple of months.
TERRA UHING OF THREE RIVERS HEALTH: All right. Take care, Don, happy holidays. And, if you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas.