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Ricketts extends Nebraska COVID-19 restrictions through December

Nebraska virus hospitalizations dip but remain at high level
Gov. Pete Ricketts answers questions after an update on the Nebraska COVID-19 response.
Gov. Pete Ricketts answers questions after an update on the Nebraska COVID-19 response.
Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 9:32 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Pete Ricketts is extending Nebraska’s current coronavirus restrictions through December as the number of residents hospitalized with the virus dipped below 900 for the first time in more than two weeks.

The current restrictions require masks in certain businesses, such as salons and tattoo parlors, where it’s difficult to maintain six feet of distance between people. They had been set to expire Monday.

When asked why Nebraska didn’t follow White House guidelines that recommended months ago that Nebraska implement mask requirements, the governor said Monday the state is following the plan it was asked to provide.

“We’re putting together a plan that is right for Nebraska, and so that’s what every state is doing, and that’s what we’ve done here in Nebraska,” Ricketts said.

Despite the decline in hospitalizations, hospitals remained strained across the state. Ricketts has faced growing pressure to impose a statewide mask mandate but has refused to do so, arguing that mandates breed resentment and may face resistance.

The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Nebraska dipped below 900 for the first time in more than two weeks Sunday, but hospital capacity remains strained across the state.

The governor said Monday that any potential spikes in new COVID-19 cases that could be attributed to gatherings over the holiday weekend would be reflected in data in the next two weeks.

The state reported that 896 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide on Sunday, down from the previous day’s 911 and nearly 100 below the record of 987 set on Nov. 20. But the number of hospitalizations has nearly quadrupled since the start of October when 227 people were being treated in hospitals.

Ricketts said the data comes from hospitals, which have recently indicated that those numbers don’t include hospitalizations beyond 21 days. The data also includes staffed beds on a 14-day average, which caused hospitalization numbers to decline and “not hit the red,” he said. If Nebraska COVID-19 hospitalizations did hit 25%, the new stricter restrictions would remain in place until the seven-day rolling average dropped below 25%.

The state reported 1,143 new cases of the virus Sunday and the number of deaths remained unchanged at 989.

When asked about confrontations with those who aren’t wearing masks, Ricketts encouraged Nebraskans to “leave a little space for grace” and understand that “the appropriate use of masks are just one of the tools, but one tool by itself is not going to address the issue of slowing the spread (of COVID-19). We have to use all of our tools together.”

More employees of the Nebraska prison system tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said in a statement Saturday night that four staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. Two of those work at the Omaha Correctional Center, one works at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution and one works at the department’s central office.

The latest cases bring the number of Nebraska prison staffers infected since the pandemic began to 325. Of those, 228 have recovered. The department also said Friday that 677 inmates have tested positive for the virus and four have died. Officials said 312 of them have recovered.

Watch Monday’s news conference

6 News contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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