Nebraska to let restaurants sell bread, milk, toilet paper

Nebraskans who order takeout during the coronavirus pandemic may soon be able to get a side of bread, milk and toilet paper from their local restaurant, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Tuesday.
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraskans who order takeout during the coronavirus pandemic may soon be able to get a side of bread, milk and toilet paper from their local restaurant, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Tuesday.

Ricketts said he is relaxing state rules that govern what local eateries can sell to give them more flexibility as they struggle with sharp declines in business. The move would allow restaurants to sell food and other goods not labeled for retail sale, including eggs, butter, cereal, produce and disinfectants.

The Nebraska Restaurant Association predicts that 6% of the state’s restaurants will close permanently because of the pandemic. Temporarily loosening the regulations could help some survive, said Zoe Olson, the group’s executive director.

Olson said restaurants could help fill the gaps left by grocery stores that have sold out of high-demand staples, particularly in rural areas. She said restaurants will likely advertise what they have available on their social media pages.

“This is another revenue stream, another way to get our staff back to work,” she said.

Ricketts said the change is designed to preserve jobs and help meet the public’s demand for products that have become scarce. Restaurants use different supply chains than grocery stores and tend to buy more products in bulk.

“This will help cut some of that red tape,” he said.

The change was possible because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently relaxed its regulations on bulk-food purchases, said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

The announcement coincided with “Takeout Tuesday,” an earlier declaration by Ricketts to encourage residents to order from restaurants during the pandemic. Ricketts has ordered all of the state’s restaurants and bars to close their dining areas for the next few weeks and only offer takeout and delivery services. The rules are designed to discourage large public gatherings and prevent the coronavirus from spreading and overwhelming Nebraska’s hospitals.

Nebraska has had at least 871 confirmed cases and 18 deaths, although the number was expected to be updated Tuesday evening. Nearly 10,500 people have tested negative. The number of new cases confirmed Tuesday wasn’t immediately available.

Another COVID-19 death has been reported in Nebraska, bringing the state’s total to 18, state health officials said.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported late Monday that the state’s 18th virus-caused death was that of a man in his 90s with underlying health conditions living in Washington County. The state stood at 871 confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday morning, while nearly 10,500 people have tested negative, according to the department’s tracking data.

For most people, the new 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, and death.

Ricketts’ current plan will see schools closed and businesses and social gatherings limited until at least April 30.
Categories: Consumer News, Coronavirus, Nebraska News