Nebraska to loosen more coronavirus restrictions in June

Latest on state's response
Posted at 2:02 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 02:51:17-04

OMAHA, Neb. (AP/KMTV) — Nebraska will let bars, zoos, movie theaters and swimming pools reopen and allow small concerts and auctions to resume on June 1 in all but four hard-hit counties.

Gov. Pete Ricketts says he plans to further loosen social-distancing restrictions to strike a balance between public health and the need to move back toward normal life as people grow restless.

"We are turning this around in really quick manner to give people a chance to plan for what things will look like on June 1st," Ricketts said.

His announcement came as the number of coronavirus deaths continues to rise. Businesses that do reopen will still face mandatory social distancing restrictions.

Ricketts is also easing some restrictions in Hall, Merrick, Hamilton and Dakota counties, but rules in those areas will remain more stringent than in the rest of the state.

One of the industries benefiting the most from the lifting of restrictions in June are bars, which will now be allowed to open under the same guidelines as restaurants.

"It was exciting, we were super excited," said Jordan Ellis, a co-owner of Maloney’s Irish Pub. "We have a lot of people texting us and they’re excited for us."

Ellis and her co-owner Kris Falkenhainer said it was frustrating to not open when the restaurants did earlier this month.

"The guessing game that everyone has been going through," Falkenhainer said. "To hear now that we have a date to have the bars reopen safely."

As part of the new directed health measures, games such as pool and darts still cannot be played inside bars. Inherently bars involve a lot of close contact. The owners said they're making sure patrons can be safe inside while grabbing a drink.

"We moved our tables around, we cut off certain sections and we took a tape measure around to see what is six feet," Ellis said.

Among the other changes Ricketts announced were adult sports contests can start on June 18th. Maloney's runs a summer beach volleyball league that the owners said is crucial to their business.

"It’s our summer," Falkenhainer said. "That’s what keeps us going through the winter."

Watch reporter Phil Bergman's story in the above video.

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3 News Now Anchor Jennifer Griswold provided updates via Twitter: