Nebraska Gov. Ricketts: Don’t visit areas with eased rules
“But we are asking people to do the right thing and continue to stay home if your public health district’s restrictions have not been loosened.”
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska relaxed some of its social-distancing restrictions Monday in the Omaha area and more than half of the state’s counties, but Gov. Pete Ricketts implored people who are still living in more heavily regulated areas to stay put.
Ricketts asked residents in hard-hit areas, such as Grand Island and Dakota City, not to venture away from their regions out of concern that they might spread the coronavirus. Unlike many other states, Ricketts has imposed public safety restrictions in Nebraska on a regional basis, by local public health district. The rules are designed to keep the virus from spreading so fast that it overwhelms the state’s hospitals.
Ricketts was asked Monday at a news conference whether he was concerned about people crossing into less restricted areas to dine out, which they’re now able to do in the Omaha area. The new, lighter rules in 59 of Nebraska’s 93 counties allow salons, tattoo parlors and restaurant dining rooms to reopen with limits on the number of people that can be present.
“There are going to be border issues just like there border issues with the states,” he said. “But we are asking people to do the right thing and continue to stay home if your public health district’s restrictions have not been loosened.”
Regions of Nebraska that have seen a recent surge in coronavirus cases are still operating under tougher restrictions. Those rules prohibit restaurants from opening their dining areas and have required salons and tattoo parlors to close. Lincoln will remain under the tougher standards until Sunday.
The governor faced similar questions from constituents Monday afternoon during his monthly call-in radio show, including one concern that the effort may be self-defeating. Since the number of cases can vary widely among counties within the same public health district, people may be encouraged to travel from closed counties to open counties, undercutting the original goal.
Ricketts said his administration plans to keep watch on the number of cases through May and will consider easing additional restrictions.
His comments came as two more COVID-19 deaths were reported in Nebraska, bringing the state’s death total to 78.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said the two deaths it reported late Sunday occurred in south-central Nebraska’s Dawson County. Also on Sunday, Holt County in north-central Nebraska reported its first confirmed case of the virus.
Nebraska saw its number of confirmed cases soar to nearly 6,000 by Monday morning, jumping from 4,838 confirmed cases on Friday. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher than the number of confirmed cases, though, because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected without feeling sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The new cases were reported as statewide restrictions in Nebraska are set to be eased starting Monday, when restaurants and businesses can reopen and religious gatherings can resume, though social distancing requirements will remain in place.