Ricketts: April will be another ‘tough month’ for Nebraska
Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday extended Nebraska’s statewide restrictions on social gatherings until at least April 30.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday extended Nebraska’s statewide restrictions on social gatherings until at least April 30 and urged residents to brace for another “tough month” in April, when the number of new coronavirus cases is expected to peak.
Ricketts said state public health officials are predicting that the number will continue to increase until mid- to late-April before it gradually declines. He implored residents to continue following the state’s “social distancing” requirements, including a 10-person limit on social gatherings. State officials have imposed even tougher restrictions on some hard-hit counties that include Omaha, Lincoln and other population centers.
“We can expect that April is going to be a tough month,” Ricketts said at his weekday news conference at the Capitol.
Nebraska had 153 confirmed cases as of Monday evening, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. More than 2,700 people have tested negative.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Ricketts said the 30 counties that are now under a “directed health measure” order should adhere to the deadlines that were imposed on them individually, which may be later than April 30. For instance, 15 of those counties have been ordered to wait until May 6. Another three directed health measures are set to expire April 30 but could be renewed. On Friday evening, Ricketts announced 12 more counties in the Panhandle were placed under similar orders, with a May 11 expiration.
Counties with “directed health measure” orders face tougher restrictions than other parts of Nebraska because public officials have identified coronavirus cases in those areas that can’t be traced.
A directed health measure requires restaurants and bars to close their dining areas and only offer takeout or delivery. In counties that aren’t affected, those businesses can keep their dining areas open but can’t have more than 10 people inside at once. The restrictions are designed to slow the virus’ spread and prevent it from overwhelming the state’s hospitals.
On Sunday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert admonished residents who continue to crowd big-box stores such as Walmart, Costco and Menards. City officials have implored residents to only venture out to buy groceries when it is absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, Nebraska Labor Commissioner John Albin announced residents will soon be able to collect new unemployment benefits administered by the state. Some benefits will extend to people who have exhausted other unemployment and those who are self-employed and independent contractors.