Nebraska doctors urge governor to impose tight restrictions

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Posted at 3:52 PM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 16:52:40-04

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A group of doctors has urged Gov. Pete Ricketts to impose stricter measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, just as the state reported 40 new cases of the coronavirus.

Ricketts has imposed restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in one place and has closed bars and restaurants, but the Republican has resisted following the course of leaders in most other U.S. states by imposing a stay-at-home order.

On Sunday, state health officials reported that the 40 new infections took the state’s tally to at least 363 cases. The state has reported eight deaths linked to the virus.

A group of 45 doctors from Grand Island on Saturday published an open letter to the governor begging him to take stronger action to prevent more infections and deaths in the state.

“COVID-19’s arrival has been much swifter than we ever imagined,” the doctors wrote to the Omaha World-Herald. “And, we know from very clear data from other places throughout the world, that the incidence is going to increase dramatically in the next two weeks if nothing further is done to mitigate the spread in our community.”

The doctors who wrote the letter included Dr. Rebecca Steinke, the medical director of the Central District Health Department that includes Hall, Merrick and Hamilton counties.

On Friday, Ricketts expanded an order that limits gatherings to fewer than 10 people and eliminates dine-in service at restaurants and bars to all counties. Previously, the order had applied to 56 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, including the ones around Grand Island.

“The next several weeks will be key to slowing the spread of the virus in Nebraska. We are asking Nebraskans to further limit social interactions, work, go home, and shop once a week,” Ricketts said in a statement.

Ricketts’ spokesman, Taylor Gage, said state officials are working to set up a meeting with the doctors.

For most people, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illnesses.

Ricketts has said some of Nebraska’s rules are stricter that in other states such as Florida, where a stay-at-home order has been issued but religious gatherings of more than 10 people are still allowed.

He also said forcing businesses to close when they can still safely operate won’t necessarily keep the virus from spreading, particularly if companies are able to keep their workers separated.

The doctors said additional restrictions are still needed.

“There are too many people still working outside the home,” they wrote. “Many of these individuals are working in close quarters without proper mitigation strategies in place to slow the spread of this disease.”