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Doctors worry moving into green phase of DHMs will allow COVID variant to spread

Posted at 2:16 PM, Jan 30, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Because the state is under 400 COVID 19 hospitalizations, the next phase of Governor Ricketts' directed health measures will begin Saturday.

"We’ll be in the green phase of the DHM which essentially means we’ll have 100 percent occupancy of indoor venues, no restrictions on extracurricular activities for young people. But even though we’re in that phase we still need people to continue to wear masks when we’re out in public, to wash their hands, to stay home if you have that cough or that fever," Ricketts said.

In his press conference Friday, Ricketts said because of the new COVID variants, we need to continue taking precautions.

With the three new COVID strains, doctors worry that loosening restrictions will lead to a spike in cases.

"The variant strains are a real wild card right now and until we have a better assessment of what’s going on in the community, this might not be a prudent measure. I think we should maintain or even strengthen the public health measures, knowing these variant strains are coming and they will start to transmit within our communities," said Dr. Mark Rupp, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Nebraska Medical Center.

Dr. Rupp said it's possible that the new variants are already in our community. Nebraska doesn't labs currently do not test for which strain of COVID a person who tests positive has.

"With all the travel that occurs it’s fairly likely that we have a low level of these variant strains, one or more of them within our state, within our communities, that’s not been fully defined but it’s certainly a strong possibility," Dr. Rupp said.

Some of the variants are understood to be 30 to 50 percent more transmissible than the COVID 19 we've seen. Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan says it's important to continue the non-pharmaceutical interventions we've been using in order to keep infection rate low.

"It’s really important for us to still wear those masks, we know masks work, we know distancing about 6 feet from each other works, we know hand hygiene is extremely important, staying home when you’re sick. So even if the DHMs do go down to green, we still need to use those good tools that we already have," Dr. Vivekanandan said.