Ricketts to relax coronavirus restriction on surgeries

The order also applies to veterinary and dental services, Ricketts said at his weekday coronavirus news conference.
Bryan Surgery

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska will take a first step toward relaxing its statewide coronavirus restrictions on May 4 by allowing hospitals to resume elective surgeries if they meet certain conditions, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday.

Ricketts said he will lift the state’s ban on elective surgeries for hospitals that have at least 30% of their beds, intensive-care unit space and ventilators available. Hospitals must also have at least two weeks worth of personal protective equipment in stock for employees before can resume surgeries.

The order also applies to veterinary and dental services, Ricketts said at his weekday coronavirus news conference.

“We want to open these back up to be able to allow those folks who need to have those surgeries to be able to start scheduling those and start having those surgeries performed,” Ricketts said. “It’s also an important source or revenue for many hospitals, so in order to help sustain our hospitals and make sure they’re available to take help care of our coronavirus patients, we want them to have a revenue source to be able to stay in business.”

Ricketts ordered a halt to all elective surgeries last month to try to keep the virus from spreading and overloading hospitals at a time when they needed to focus on treating new confirmed cases. The restrictions include a ban on gatherings larger than 10 people and a mandate for restaurants and bars to close their public dining areas.

Nebraska is among a small handful of states without formal stay-home orders in place, although its restrictions are very similar and in some cases more strict than what other states have. Ricketts imposed the restrictions regionally before expanding them statewide, and the first ones that were put in place in the Omaha area are scheduled to expire April 30, but could be renewed.

The decision was based on the large amount of available bed space and equipment in many of the state’s hospitals, Ricketts said. In Omaha, for instance, hospitals still have 75% of all their ventilators and about half of their beds available, he said. Statewide, Nebraska currently has about 190 people hospitalized with the virus.

“We’re not seeing that it’s being overwhelmed, and so we believe we have the ability to start loosening the restrictions with those caveats,” Ricketts said.

It’s not clear whether all hospitals will be able to resume those surgeries by May 4.

Some hospitals in Hall County, in central Nebraska, have seen much larger proportion of coronavirus patients relative to their size because the area is considered a hotspot. Hall County has the largest number of known cases statewide largely because of its meatpacking and food-processing plants and its assisted living homes for the elderly.

A spokesman for the Nebraska Hospital Association said it wasn’t immediately clear how many of the group’s members would be able to resume elective surgeries on May 4.

Categories: Coronavirus, Nebraska News