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Nebraska's COVID restrictions will loosen over the weekend; Ricketts announces new DHMs

State enters "yellow" phase on Saturday
Posted at 4:35 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-13 16:05:18-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Friday, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that the state is moving from the “orange” to “yellow” phase of its coronavirus pandemic response plan.

As a result, the State of Nebraska is issuing new Directed Health Measures (DHMs) effective 12:01 AM on Saturday, December 12, 2020. The new DHMs change some of the restrictions put in place to help manage the coronavirus pandemic.

When the state moves to the yellow phase, hospitals can perform elective surgeries, indoor capacity moves from 25 percent to 50 percent and six-foot separation indoors becomes a guidance, rather than a mandate:

  • Fan attendance at extracurricular activities—both school and club—is no longer limited to household members of participants.
  • Parties at restaurants and bars remain limited to groups of 8 or less. Individuals must still be seated unless ordering food, using the restroom, or playing games. Six feet of separation between groups returns to a guidance.
  • The maximum capacity for indoor gatherings goes from 25% to 50%.
    • Only certain venues where people convene are considered “gatherings” under the State’s DHMs.
  • Masks are recommended, rather than required, for establishments such as childcare centers, salons, barber shops, massage therapists, and body art studios.
  • Elective surgeries can resume as long as a hospital keeps 10% of its capacity available to treat coronavirus patients.

At a Friday press conference Ricketts asked Nebraska residents to postpone holiday parties and continue to social distance as COVID-19 data in the state is heading in the right direction.

"Look folks, nobody wants to be sick over the holidays when you may be spending time with your families," said Ricketts.

Ricketts explained that 28% of hospital beds, 26 percent of ICU beds and 70% of the ventilators are available across the state, adding that we've seen a drop in overall hospitalizations after a spike in November.

If this trend continues for just one more day, he'll loosen some restrictions.

"That's been stable, below our level of 20%. So if we have one more day, of being at that level below 20%, our seven day rolling average will have been below 20 percent, and that means we will move from our orange phase to our yellow," Ricketts said.

Mel McNea with Great Plains Health says something else moving in the right direction is the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Thursday, an F.D.A panel approved the Pfizer vaccine.

"We are hoping that we will receive the vaccine in the first part of the week," McNea said. "We are working with our partners at West Central Health District to make sure that we distribute that vaccine quickly and to use every vial that has been given to us."

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