Risk Dial in ‘Low Yellow,’ new mask exception

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — The COVID-19 Risk Dial for Lancaster County has dropped to Low Yellow, the lowest risk level the community has seen since the dial was launched a year ago.

Health Director Pat Lopez explained, “This past week we saw a drop in the number of new weekly cases from 348 to 264. This is the largest drop in weekly cases in nine weeks. It is also the lowest weekly case count since late August.”

With a drop in the risk dial, Lancaster County will be seeing new Direct Health Measures (DHMs) go into effect this Friday.

The new DHMs include:

  • The mask mandate is still in effect, but a new exception has been added. If a fully vaccinated person is in an area that is not open to the general public, like a private office or break room, they no longer have to wear masks.
  • Limiting groups of individuals to eight and maintaining six feet of social distancing are no longer requirements, but recommendations for gatherings, youth activities and sports, food establishments and bars, barbershops, cosmetology establishments, cosmetologists and estheticians, body art facilities, and massage therapy.
    • There is no longer a limit to the number of fans allowed per participant for youth sports, but occupancy is limited to 75% venue capacity.
    • Events with an occupancy of more than 500 are still required to be approved by LLCHD.
  • Capacity for restaurants, bars, and food service establishments is still capped at 75%,  but limiting groups of individuals to eight and maintaining six feet of social distancing are no longer requirements, but recommendations.
  • Gym occupancy continues to be capped at 75%, but limiting groups of individuals to eight and maintaining six feet of social distancing are no longer requirements, but recommendations.

Some local restaurants expect to see larger groups dining in.

“We can get a few more big top reservations,” Vincenzos dining room manager Alyssa Tolliver said. “We can get more people in here. We finally brought out some tables from storage so we can get those bigger parties in here.”

While some restaurants are adding tables and booking more reservations, others are taking things slower.

“For us, we’re not going to add anymore seats we’re going to continue to keep the spacing where we’re at now,” Rodizio Grill general manager Eric Underwood said.  “The best way we can then grow our volume is that we can spread out the people over time.”

Underwood said his business books reservations in spread out time slots.

Both Rodizio and Vincenzos staff said they keep getting busy as the restrictions loosen. Getting people to come in is not the problem.

“Our biggest problem would be adding the employment opportunities out there,” Underwood said. “That’s really where the struggle is going to be throughout this industry.”

According to the Nebraska Restaurant Association, restaurants in Lincoln are 30 percent understaffed. Underwood said his team is working with Lincoln Public Schools to try and hire students in high school to help with employment.

Next week, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) plans to hold clinics at North Star, Northeast, Lincoln East, Lincoln High, Southeast, and Southwest high schools for Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) students.

A mass vaccination clinic was held today to vaccinate UNL students, staff, and faculty.

MORE: UNL holding mass vaccination clinic for students Tuesday  

This week’s large-scale public clinics (others may be added):

  • Wednesday, April 21, first-dose drive-thru clinic at Gateway Mall at the garages of the former Sears store.
  • Friday, April 23, Pinnacle Bank Arena – first and second doses
  • Saturday, April 24, Pinnacle Bank Arena – First doses

Today, LLCHD reports 51 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the community total to 30,544.

A total of 33 COVID variants have been identified within the county, nearly 75% of the cases are the UK variant.

The total number of deaths remains at 232.

More than 27,500 people have recovered from the virus and nearly 263,760 vaccines have been administered.

Forty-four COVID patients are hospitalized (28 are Lancaster County residents). Three patients are on ventilators.

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Categories: Coronavirus, Lancaster, News