LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts held a press conference Monday morning providing an update on what the state is doing to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep hospitalizations down.
The governor, who is quarantining after a COVID-19 exposure, said he was tested through TestNebraska and got a negative test result back. However, he’s still quarantining for the next week.
There are a total of 914 COVID-19 related hospitalizations in Nebraska, that's about 20% of total hospitalizations. This keeps Nebraska in the "orange threshold" of restrictions which includes bars still being open at full capacity but with some social distancing, indoor gatherings remaining at 25 percent and outdoor gatherings remaining at 100 percent.
"We'll put more restrictions in as more Coronavirus patients are in the hospitals," Gov. Ricketts said.
If the state increases COVID-related hospitalizations to around 1,200 the restrictions will tighten as the state moves into the "red threshold". In the red, bars will only be open for carryout, indoor gatherings will be subject to the 10-person rule and outdoor gatherings subject to the 20-person rule.
Last week Governor Ricketts said they're looking at hospitalization numbers. We're at 20% of staffed beds have COVID patients. If/when that hits 25%, we'll head into red territory for restrictions. Later this week, the dashboard will show those numbers. https://t.co/Mholt4mrnZ— Jennifer Griswold (@griswoldkmtv) November 16, 2020
UNMC infectious disease expert Dr. John Lowe explained why the state needs to move into the red immediately.
"Right now we're seeing a doubling of the number of people that are hospitalized every two weeks...which means if we were to implement interventions today, we would still probably see twice the number of people hospitalized in two weeks before we start seeing the trend reverse course and start to lower," he said.
Gov. Ricketts mentioned the state has created a transfer center to aid in moving COVID-19 patients to avoid overwhelming hospital systems. If beds are full, he says patients could be transferred across the state and added that limiting elective surgeries will help.
As Gov. Ricketts provided more updates Monday morning, he continued to stay firm on his stance of not implementing a state-wide mask mandate. However, Nebraska Senator Justin Wayne says he's done the research and says cities themselves can implement a city-wide mask mandate.
"So my staff and myself went through all the statutes as urban affairs chair and it's clear by the plain language that mayors, all classes of cities in Nebraska, have the ability to issue a mask mandate based off of their home charter rule," Senator Wayne said.
Wayne explains that cities can implement regulations, not directed health measures (DHMs). Mask mandates can fall under city regulations.
"DHM is legal specific. But what is clear is that local cities, any city or village, can provide regulations," he said.
Gov. Ricketts warned cities to talk to their legal teams before implementing such regulations.
"I certainly recommend cities consult with their legal advisers before they do something like that," he said.
Senator Wayne says he's already in talks with mayors who plan on begin the process of implementing city-wide mask mandates in the coming days.
Zoe Olson, the President of the Nebraska Restaurant Association, said most restaurants are experiencing a 30% decline in revenue. Supporting local restaurants by ordering take-out or delivery was recommended by both Olson and Gov. Ricketts.
Olson urged patrons to wear a mask when they’re not eating or drinking.
“We need to protect our staff. They’re our family,” said Olson.
Additionally, both Olson and Gov. Ricketts stressed to not have large gatherings for Thanksgiving.
“Please only gather with people in your homes that you live with,” said Olson.
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