LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — Gov. Pete Ricketts held a back to school press conference in Lincoln on Monday.
Ricketts says while some students may benefit from online classes, he feels most will have a more positive impact inside the classroom. He believes children also benefit in the form of physical education and says there are emotional benefits too.
“It’s not just about academics either, it’s about a variety of different topics. It’s about socialization, making sure kids can see other kids. It’s about physical health that goes on in schools, it’s about mental and behavioral health,” Gov. Ricketts explained. “It’s about nutritional, we know many kids meet part of their nutritional needs in school”
Ricketts cited a statement made by CDC Director Robert Redfield which indicates more school-aged children are dying of suicide and drug overdoses now than from COVID-19 in regards to the risk posed to them. He also said 5-10 times more students die from influenza.
Matthew L. Blomstedt, Nebraska’s Commissioner of Education, backed Ricketts, saying the impact of not having in-person education has to be balanced with public safety concerns.
When asked about recommendations from doctors and medical professionals who are calling for learning to be done only remotely due to the pandemic, Ricketts said lawmakers are the ones who should make those decisions. He says officials have to take into account the whole picture in regard to economic factors and other reasons.
Blomstedt and Ricketts said school starts will not be delayed but situations are fluid and districts will have the option to make changes as they see fit in that regard and for individuals at risk due to underlying conditions. They also said districts will have the option to change their plans due to an outbreak as they see fit.
Ricketts said TestNebraska reached a record number of test swabs administered with 3,971 taken on a single day.
When asked about a possible mask mandate in Omaha, Ricketts said the city and county would have to follow the law and that he isn’t in favor of creating laws to enforce such a thing. Instead, Ricketts said he favors continuing to educate residents and encouraging safety measures such as social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing.
Watch Monday's press conference below.
3 News Now Senior Reporter Jake Wasikowski and 3 News Now This Morning Anchor Courtney Johns are providing live updates via Twitter:
Gov. Ricketts says school isn't just about education, it's about emotional and physical health.— Courtney Johns (@CourtneyJohnsTV) August 3, 2020
Blomstedt says it’s hard to balance the safety in a pandemic and also the impact of not having in person school.— Jake Wasikowski (@jakewasikowski) August 3, 2020
Gov. Ricketts says statistically the number of students who die from influenza is five to ten times greater than COVID-19.— Courtney Johns (@CourtneyJohnsTV) August 3, 2020
Gov. Ricketts says, at the end of the day, policy makers should be making these decisions. When doctors are looking at this, they are only looking at one part of this. We (policy makers) are looking at the bigger picture.#coronavirus pic.twitter.com/sNb2gDX9Qs— Courtney Johns (@CourtneyJohnsTV) August 3, 2020
Gov. Ricketts says having kids in classrooms is a public health issue. #coronavirus— Courtney Johns (@CourtneyJohnsTV) August 3, 2020
Gov Ricketts talks about the possible mask mandate in Omaha saying they could do it but the county and city would have to follow the law.— Jake Wasikowski (@jakewasikowski) August 3, 2020
Gov. Ricketts says there are going to be teachers with underlying health conditions that schools will have to accommodate and possibly let them work from home.— Jake Wasikowski (@jakewasikowski) August 3, 2020
Blomstedt says they’ve had discussions about delaying the start of school but so far that won’t happen.— Jake Wasikowski (@jakewasikowski) August 3, 2020
Blomstedt says they’ve looked at what was being done at summer camps with large outbreaks and local schools will follow stricter social distancing guidelines. He adds the kids at the summer camps weren’t distancing and we’re singing and shouting.@3NewsNowOmaha— Jake Wasikowski (@jakewasikowski) August 3, 2020