Nebraska COVID-19 restrictions loosened in most areas

Most of Nebraska moved into Phase 4 of directed health measures on Monday.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts ended nearly all of the state’s social-distancing restrictions on Monday.

“The state has moved all the public health measures into Stage 4. Lancaster county has chosen to remain in Stage 3 through September 30,” Ricketts said. “That is a Lancaster county decision, not a state decision.”

Under the new rules, larger indoor venues such as concert halls can allow gatherings of up to 75% of their rated capacity, up from 50%. Additionally, Ricketts said people who want a gathering of 500 people or more will have to get approval from their local public health director. All other state-imposed mandates in favor of voluntary guidelines are dropped.

State officials said they made the decision based on the availability of hospital beds and ventilators, in keeping with the Governor’s goal of not overwhelming medical facilities.

“The goal has always been to protect hospital capacity, and capacity remains stable,” said Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage.

Nebraska’s hospitals have 36% of their regular beds, 34% of their intensive care unit beds and 82% of their ventilators available, according to the state’s online tracking portal. Those numbers have changed little in the last few months.

Nebraska will also allow smaller indoor facilities, such as bars, restaurants, churches, gyms and hair salons, to operate with no formal restrictions. State guidance still recommends limiting crowd sizes, but those guidelines aren’t enforceable.

Some Lincoln businesses, believe people are ready for Phase 4.

“I think people are kind of fed up in a sense of the coronavirus,” Corn Coast Cuts owner Hakim Muhammed said. “I don’t think that they don’t think it’s a real thing, but I think people are just ready to get back to their lives and just go back to normal.”

Muhammed said he sees both sides to staying in Phase 3 or moving on to Phase 4. He knows people’s health and well-being are important. As a business owner, he does think Phase 4 could be beneficial.

“I truthfully believe their would be an increase in business,” he said.

The state’s shift won’t affect mask requirements in Omaha and Lincoln. Both cities still require people to wear face coverings in most indoor spaces when they aren’t able to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.

Lincoln-Lancaster County Public Health Director Pat Lopez has said her county won’t ease its restrictions this month because of a recent increase in cases driven by returning college students.

“This is the time not only to stay the course, but also to redouble our efforts in Lancaster County,” Lopez said. “We need to do what is best for our community to overcome the impacts of this virus.”

Categories: Capitol News, Top Stories