Gov. Ricketts provides COVID update, NSP urges no travel unless necessary

State foster care provider faces budget shortfall
Pete Ricketts
Posted at 10:00 AM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 12:45:15-05

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts held a press conference to provide updates on what the state is doing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) also provided an update and worsening travel conditions.

The governor said the state continues to move in the right direction in regards to COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Over the weekend, the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 patients dropped below 10% which places Nebraska below the “green line.” If the rate stays below 10% for seven days, more restrictions will be lifted. About the only restriction, the governor said, would be quarantining for those who were exposed to the virus.

Two more districts are expected to join phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan in addition to 15 which are currently in it. The Douglas County Health Department and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department are expected to shift into phase 1B next week.

In regards to what would help the state increase vaccination efforts, Ricketts said more supply.

Last week, Nebraska began new contract negotiations with foster care provider St. Francis Ministries. Current CEO William Clark told Nebraska lawmakers that the provider needs $25 million to cover costs for this year and about $10 million to cover budget shortfalls for the fiscal year ending last June.

When asked if the state should have gone with another provider, Ricketts said the St. Francis Ministries looked solid on paper but appears to have been financially mismanaged by staff members that have since been fired or left the nonprofit. Going forward, the state will be working more closely with St. Francis Ministries to be sure it can meet expectations.

As heavy snowfall hits much of the state, NSP Colonel John Bolduc gave an update.

At this time, Bolduc said not to travel unless necessary and to plan ahead. This includes letting people know your travel plans, giving yourself plenty of time and driving more cautiously.

As of 9 a.m., NSP had assisted 29 motorists and handled one crash.

Motorists in need of assistance can request it from the NSP Foundation by dialing *55 or by calling 1-800-525-5555.

Stay up-to-date on today’s weather conditions: 3 News Now Weather

Bolduc said traffic on Nebraska’s interstates is continuing to flow well but things could change as snowfall rates increase and plows have trouble keeping up.

As to whether the storm may impact COVID-19 vaccine deliveries, Ricketts said there hasn’t been any indication of that but things could change.

This week has been proclaimed School Choice Week by the governor. Ricketts said his budget has $2 million set aside for scholarships and other programs to help families who choose homeschooling and other options. Another bill, LB364, is currently in talks among Nebraska Unicameral members. If approved, it would allow $10 million in additional funding for such programs.

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