Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department Explains COVID-19 Risk Dial

WAYNE – After moving up a color on the risk dial from yellow’s moderate to orange’s high level, health officials with Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department put out information on what this dial means.

According to a release from NNPHD, the COVID-19 Risk Dial is a new tool to help the public determine what actions they can take to lower the risk of spread of the virus.

Designed by Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department, it has been adopted and modified by many health departments across the state including Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department (NNPHD). By monitoring the level of risk of the spread of the virus and by taking the recommended precautions in the risk guidance document, the public can take an active part in decreasing their risk of getting the virus and help decrease further spread in their community.

COVID-19 NNPHD Community Risk Guidance

The dial is updated weekly, and the new risk level posted on the NNPHD website each Wednesday by 5 p.m. As of last Wednesday (Aug. 19), NNPHD entered the orange color.  There is a formula behind the dial to assist with calculating the level of risk as this formula has to do with a lot more than only the current number of positive cases.  The formula includes:

  • Positivity rate for the past three weeks (number of positive tests divided by the total number of tests),
  • Trajectory of cases for the past three weeks (is the number of positive cases going up or down),
  • Availability of critical medical supplies (this is assessed both locally and regionally and includes: Hospital bed availability including medical and ICU, Ventilator availability, Treatment availability, Personal protective equipment availability, Testing availability and Vaccine availability),
  • Clusters of cases in their early stages and presence of community spread in the health district (community spread is when the source of infection for someone cannot be linked to travel or contact with someone who is known to be positive for the virus),
  • Public health capacity at the local level to complete contact tracing interviews within 24 hours and to monitor people who have been placed in quarantine or isolation.


Each of the metrics is measured on a scale of 0-4 with the final risk level being determined by the average score of all metrics. The dial risk colors include green (low), yellow (moderate), orange (high) and red (severe).

By assessing these metrics on a regular (weekly) basis, it can be determined how equipped each area is to lower the spread of the virus. The higher the risk, the more work is needed in the community in order to lower the chances of spreading the virus even more. The extra work that is needed by community members to help slow the spread of the virus is outlined in the COVID-19 Risk Dial Community Guidance document that accompanies the dial on the website. The Risk Guidance document includes guidance on the recommended actions to take for attending events, when to wear facemasks, physical distancing, disinfecting and other infection control activities.

This Risk Dial is intended to inform the public of the current activity of the virus in the four-county health district of Cedar, Dixon Thurston and Wayne counties so that everyone in the community can help to slow the spread of the virus. Everyone’s help is needed; we are all in this together and together we can slow the spread so that schools, restaurants, churches and other important activities remain open.

As of Tuesday evening, Cedar County saw six more COVID positive cases moving up to 44 as Thurston County saw their number rise by one to 231. Dixon County remained at 67 and Wayne County at 45. Total positives to date in the NNPHD Health District is at 387 with 78 active cases.

For more information on COVID-19 or the Risk Dial, visit the website, or contact NNPHD at 402-375-2200.