LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — As community cases of coronavirus continue to grow, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is asking for nearly $60 million to help stop the spread of the virus that’s impacting so many in Omaha and the entire state of Nebraska.
"By and large, Nebraskan's are doing the right thing,” said Ricketts at a Friday press conference in Lincoln.
Restaurants closing their dining areas, social distancing and lots of people staying home were all things he praised Nebraskans for in the battle against the coronavirus.
“We are working with the legislature on an emergency package and emergency appropriations,” he said.
But with more than cases as of Friday afternoon, including the first case in Lincoln, he’s asking for more help.
“We’re requesting $58.6 million from the state’s cash reserve fund to be transferred to the governor’s emergency fund for us to be able to use to fight the spread of the virus here in our state,” he said.
More than half of that money would go towards the Department of Health and Human Services to provide protective services to first responders and to increase staffing not only for DHHS but veteran hospitals and their care facilities.
“We expect there may be a surge in staffing required, especially paying overtime if we have some of our teammates who may need to stay home because of child care issues or if they are in quarantine," Ricketts said.
The rest would go toward Nebraska Medicine to provide more lab equipment among other things and to expand testing which again was a big topic of discussion.
“We want to expand testing and everybody hears about why we can’t expand testing, and one of the reasons was because we had a limited supply of testing kits,” said Dr. Gary Anthone of DHHS.
Health officials hope the Nebraska Public Health lab will be able to grow the number of tests per day to 400-500 in the near future staring with health care workers.
“They’ll be priority items to get tested if they develop symptoms. Same for first responders and then our long-term care, our nursing care facility patients,” said Anthone.
It takes a community effort to stop the spread and Ricketts wants everyone on the same page.
“This is something we need to take serious,” said Ricketts.
The Governor’s emergency funding request includes appropriations for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) for the initiatives listed below:
DHHS Public Health
- Local Response Efforts - $38,156,700
- This will provide additional funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supplies to local jurisdictions, and support to local health departments for staffing, PPE, call centers, information technology needs including additional laptops/servers, and other essential expenditures.
- DHHS Staffing - $4,004,000
- Due to the size of the response and need to cover response needs, additional staffing expenditures are needed to cover costs for overtime and additional staff. The areas that need immediate surge and sustained staffing are epidemiology, support services (administrative, communications, and data entry), emergency preparedness, and contracts for staffing in epidemiology and interpreters to meet the increased demands of the Division of Public Health.
- Surge Staffing for Veterans Hospitals & DHHS Care Facilities - $13,000,000
- Additional staffing expenditures are needed to cover costs for overtime and additional staff to maintain facility healthcare coverage needs. The areas that need immediate surge and sustained staffing are veterans homes and DHHS care facilities including nursing, administrative, and other health care professionals. This was calculated to cover a surge of 50% in additional staffing needs in the event that staff is unable to care for individuals at the facilities due to staff quarantine or isolation requirements.
- COVID-19 Lab Testing - $515,000
- This would augment the cost of the reagents, laboratory personnel, and equipment to conduct COVID-19 lab testing for the state. This would include funds to purchase a combined sample extraction/detection robot for efficient and accurate serial processing of specimens, reducing staffing needs. This would be to support increased efficiency and capacity of statewide testing through the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory.
- Lab Equipment, Software Programming, and Personnel - $2,500,000
- The equipment includes higher throughput automated equipment for microbiology and molecular diagnostics. The increased testing throughput will be implemented on a fast track within the next 2-4 weeks but would support a prolonged outbreak, which is likely, as well as help prepare for future outbreaks. All funds would be dedicated to support statewide needs.
- UV Light Boxes - $100,000
- The UV light boxes would provide tertiary cleaning of N95 respirators for reuse by healthcare workers.
- Knowledge Center - $343,900
- This system is used by coalitions and all stakeholders across the state to establish an interoperable platform for communication, bed tracking, resource sharing, and an overall interoperable platform.