Ricketts announces return of transfer center, criticizes masking kids

Gov. Pete Ricketts made his stance abundantly clear on Wednesday - despite hospitalizations trending up in Nebraska, he is opposed to putting masks on kids, or anyone.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Gov. Pete Ricketts made his stance abundantly clear on Wednesday – despite hospitalizations trending up in Nebraska, he is opposed to putting masks on kids, or anyone.

“We don’t mask up for the flu, there is no reason to mask them up for the coronavirus,” Ricketts said. “They are not going to be at risk.”

According to Bryan Health, of the 11 pediatric patients that are hospitalized today, none have COVID-19.

Today, Ricketts announced the state is setting up a transfer center to manage hospital capacity.

“This is not a new thing, but with the staff members that we have right now, we want to set up that transfer center similar to what we had last year, so that we can officially move people between hospitals,” Ricketts said.

With staffing shortages in the state, Ricketts confirmed that the transfer center won’t be taking employees away from hospitals.

“The staffing for this will be from a call center, who will have nurses here, both in the United States and the Philippines, they’ll be answering those phones, they’ll all be trained to be able to help us with staffing, but they won’t be taken away from our staffing needs,” Ricketts said.

Angie Ling of the Department of Health and Human Services says that larger hospitals in the state are between 85 to 100% full. COVID accounts for 342 of the hospitalizations in the state

“We have more patients in the hospitals now than we did during our surge last fall,” Ling said.

At the surge of the pandemic in November, there were 987 COVID hospitalizations. According to DHHS data, the percentage of COVID hospitalizations have decreased, but all other hospitalizations have gone up.

So what accounts for the change?

“We don’t have any hard data with regard to that, but we can speculate that it could be that it was delayed care that people didn’t get the care they need last year and so they’re [experiencing] more severe symptoms this year,” Ricketts said.

Still, the governor says he is opposed to mask mandates in schools or anywhere.

“I’m 100% against mask mandates for anyone,” Ricketts said.

On Wednesday, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) announced 164 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the community total to 35,680.

No new deaths were reported within the county, the total number of deaths remains at 270.

193,308 people have received their first dose of the vaccine and 182,446 people are fully vaccinated.

The COVID-19 Risk Dial for Lincoln and Lancaster County is in the mid-orange category, meaning there is high risk of COVID-19 spread and impact in the community.

Categories: Capitol News, Lancaster, Nebraska News, News