OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska will let bars, zoos, movie theaters and swimming pools reopen and allow small concerts and auctions to resume on June 1 in all but four hard-hit counties, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Thursday as the number of coronavirus deaths continued to rise.
Ricketts announced plans to further loosen social-distancing restrictions, saying he's trying to strike a balance between public health and the need to move back toward normal life as people grow restless.
"We're taking this a step at a time," he said at a news conference.
He made the announcement as state officials reported six more coronavirus deaths and 276 new cases in Nebraska as of Wednesday night, bringing the statewide totals to 138 deaths and 11,122 confirmed cases. Nearly 75,900 people have been tested.
The number of new cases has trended downward, however, since the one-day peak of 677 on May 7. Ricketts has said he's using Nebraska's hospital capacity to judge when to ease restrictions, and those numbers have remained fairly stable. Even so, public health officials say people still need to practice social-distancing measures to keep the virus from spreading.
Businesses that do reopen will still face mandatory social distancing restrictions. For instance, the number of patrons allowed in bars will be limited to half of the venue's rated capacity, and groups of customers will have to remain at least six people apart. Patrons won't be allowed to play pool, darts or arcade games or eat at the bar.
Nebraska will also allow gatherings of up to 25 people or 25% of a venue's rated occupancy, whichever is greater, as long as the total crowd doesn't exceed 3,000 people.
The new requirement will replace the state's current 10-person limit and will apply to both indoor and outdoor venues, including stadiums, fairgrounds, meeting halls, zoos, libraries and swimming pools. Individual groups will still be capped at six people and required to stay away from other groups.
Additionally, any event expected to draw more than 500 people will need prior approval from the county's public health director. In Omaha's Douglas County, the threshold is 1,000 people.
Ricketts will also ease rules for sports, allowing baseball, softball and volleyball teams to resume practices on June 1 and play games on June 18. Rodeos can begin on June 1, but contact sports such as football, basketball and wrestling will remain prohibited.
The changes won't apply to Hall, Hamilton, Merrick or Dakota counties, some of the hardest-hit regions in Nebraska. Hall and Dakota counties have seen particularly large spikes driven by local meatpacking plants.
On Thursday, a coalition of Latino Americans called on Ricketts and local meat packers to do more to protect plant workers who now account for a large share of Nebraska's coronavirus restrictions. Activists said conditions at the plants have generally improved, but they're still hearing reports about inconsistent use of protective equipment at some facilities.
"Unfortunately, these efforts may be seen as too little, too late," said Yolanda Nuncio, a former member of the Nebraska state Latino American Commission. "Some of these plants have not lowered production rates, so when workers go on standard breaks, their coworkers must maintain the same rate of production."
Asked about the criticism on Thursday, Ricketts said he has talked by phone with plant workers and union leaders to discuss their concerns. He also has said that local public health officials from the University of Nebraska Medical Center have gone out to plants to help them establish safety procedures to keep the virus from spreading.
For some infected people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness or death. But for most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.
Whats Next For Hall County
(Listen to this feature in it's entirty below)
(Grand Island, NE) - Monday morning a flyover..over CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island to salute those on the front lines in our healthcare system, a healthcare system that with collaboration with other hospitals and an extremely dedicated staff of heroes were not overwhelmed by the coronavirus.
The data coming back from the Central District Health Department in GI is also showing positive signs, signs all pointing to one thing.
We are past the peak of this virus.
But instead of a sigh of relief, it’s more concern, and more questions for local businesses in Grand Island who watch other parts of the state slowly open, while our community sits on the sidelines.
Local business owner Casey Williams is in the tourism industry, a hotel owner with the Travel Lodge here in GI, who has seen bookings and stays simply come to a halt as more and more events preemptively call things off.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has said consistently, that the original goal of the DHM's and social distancing practices were to not overwhelm the healthcare system.
“That’s what we’ve done very successfully, at no point was our health care system in danger of being overwhelmed.”
So mission accomplished? Will we see a relaxation on the directed health mandates and social distancing restrictions?
The Governor has taken a more cautious approach.
The frustration that many Nebraskan’s are feeling isn’t due to the boredom of social distancing, it’s the uncertainty and the lack of a gameplan for the business community to move forward.
A popular hashtag on social media is “win back GI”, it could be argued we never lost it, but while we wait, the question remains...what will we come back to?
North Platte, Ne - The Miss Rodeo Nebraska Pageant will be postponed to Aug. 2-5 in observance of the social distancing practices occurring throughout the state and nation.
The move has prompted the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association to extend its contestant deadline as well. Queen hopefuls now have until June 15 to enter.
“I would like thank everyone for their patience as we proceed with the pageant,” said Cindy Petersen, chair of the pageant committee. “This pandemic has caused the committee to adapt to new safety measures, but we are looking forward to another successful year.”
The pageant was originally planned for June in North Platte - in conjunction with NEBRASKAland Days and the Buffalo Bill Rodeo.
However, on Tuesday, NLD announced that the Buffalo Bill Rodeo would be rescheduled for Aug. 5-8. A new Miss Rodeo Nebraska is traditionally crowned during the rodeo’s first performance.
Those interested in entering the pageant this year, or in receiving more information, can contact Cathy Ewing at (308) 530-0590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rule books and contracts can be found on the forms section of the MRN website at missrodeonebraska.org.
Covid-19 Update - City Hall/Grand Island
Notes from Mayor Roger Steele
Grand Island is projected to have a 12% decrease in sales tax revenue. That loss will be a loss of $1.5 million dollars to the general governmental fund for the fiscal year ending on September 30th.Overall the city is projecting a 5.6% decrease in all revenues for the general fund which equates to $2.2 million dollars.
Food and beverage tax collections were down for the month of April, that’s based on March sales, by 24% ($50,000) as compared to the same month last year. The city expects to have the food and beverage receipts to be significantly reduced for the rest of the fiscal year ending September 30th.
With an estimated loss of revenue of $437,000. Keno proceeds for the month of April are down 42%.
Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele spoke to Gov. Ricketts last Friday. Ricketts told him that he does not believe GI will be able to have gatherings of people until August, if even then. Referring to crowds where social distancing will not occur.
Opening of the water park (Island Oasis) and Lincoln Pool will probably not be happening given the expense and uncertainty of when it will be allowed for people to gather in close proximity.
MAY 6, 2020 (NORTH PLATTE, NEB.) — A collaborative effort of several law enforcement agencies has resulted in the arrest of the suspect involved in a pursuit Tuesday near Brady.
At approximately 7:50 p.m. Tuesday evening, a trooper located a Chevrolet Silverado, which had been reported stolen in Cozad. The trooper observed the vehicle speeding at 100 miles per hour as it was traveling westbound on Highway 30 in eastern Lincoln County. The trooper attempted a traffic stop, but the vehicle fled.
The trooper initiated a pursuit, which turned north on Haythorn Road before circling back and returning to Highway 30 westbound. As the vehicle continued driving at approximately 100 miles per hour, NSP dispatch was able to confirm the identity of the suspect. Troopers then discontinued the pursuit. The entire pursuit lasted approximately nine minutes.
Wednesday morning, a local resident located the Silverado, which had been abandoned on Tin Camp Road, south of Highway 92 in McPherson County. The McPherson County Sheriff’s Office responded and confirmed that it was the vehicle that had been stolen and had been involved in the pursuit with troopers Tuesday evening.
Several law enforcement agencies, including deputies from the McPherson, Logan, and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Offices, the NSP Aviation Support Division, and NSP Police Service Dog Division, reported to the scene to assist in a search of the area to locate the suspect. Law enforcement received a report that the suspect was at an abandoned farmstead and were quickly able to locate him and take him into custody without further incident at approximately 2:25 p.m.
Shawn Grizzle, 33, of Cozad, was arrested for operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest, theft by unlawful taking, willful reckless driving, and as a habitual criminal. Grizzle was lodged in Lincoln County Jail. Additional charges are pending from Dawson County.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraskans may begin enjoying recreational vehicle camping by reservation only at select state park areas starting May 20, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Limited RV camping will be available at select park areas where social distancing and group-size recommendations can be maintained to help ensure compliance with the state’s public health directives amid the COVID-19 health situation. A list of the available park areas will be posted on the agency website and updated as additional areas are established.
“We sympathize with those who have been affected by this virus and the rippling effects of trying to contain it, and we appreciate the patience and understanding of people who are passionate about camping,” Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas said. “We are pleased to now be able to allow limited RV camping, and we look forward to restoring more opportunities when the time is appropriate and as conditions allow. Our priority remains to protect the health and well-being of all Nebraskans.”
Those RV campsites will have the following requirements:
-- Designated sites, which will be spaced at least 25 feet apart, can be reserved online beginning May 17 at OutdoorNebraska.org and prepaid. First-come, first-served and tent camping will not be allowed.
-- Only self-contained recreational vehicles, with factory features that allow them to hold potable water, contain wastewater/sewage and connect to electrical service, will be allowed to reserve a site.
-- No parks’ showerhouses or modern restrooms will be open until further notice. Vault toilets and RV dump stations will be open.
-- Each campsite will be limited to eight guests, and the length of stay will be limited to seven days.
-- Mormon Island State Recreation Area (SRA) near Grand Island and Danish Alps SRA near Hubbard will not be available, as they are near communities with high COVID-19 incidence. Park areas may be added to or deleted from the list as warranted and upon recommendations of health officials.
Game and Parks retains the ability to scale back the number of campsites if social practices are not followed or if public health officials determine there is an increased incidence of virus in any region of the state.
Park grounds remain open to the public for day use and a park entry permit is needed for each vehicle entering a park.
State designated beach and swimming areas will be closed until further notice, in part due to recent incidents involving large gatherings and lack of social distancing on beach areas at multiple state park venues. Other waterfront areas will remain open for day use and fishing as long as social distancing and the 10-person gathering size limit are maintained.
In addition, current Game and Parks closures for cabins, lodge rooms, group shelters, undesignated campsites, and tent camping at state park areas and wildlife management areas will be extended at least through May 31, with possible further extension.
People with park reservations for camping or lodging affected by the extended closure can contact Game and Parks for a refund or to reschedule.
Game and Parks will continue to evaluate closures and opportunities that can be restored following state guidelines and local directed health measures. More information, including a list of closures, and answers to frequently asked questions, can be found at OutdoorNebraska.org.