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Ricketts loosening Nebraska COVID-19 restrictions

Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 9:32 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2020 at 12:20 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office confirmed Friday afternoon that the governor will officially loosen some of the state’s restrictions at 12:01 a.m. Saturday — the seventh consecutive day Nebraska’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have been at 20% or lower.

A release issued Friday afternoon states that Nebraska’s move into the “yellow zone” will allow some elective surgeries to resume and indoor capacity to move from 25% to 50%. The move will also lift restrictions on extracurricular activities, and changes most current restrictions — like the 6-foot social distancing rule and the requirement to wear masks when that distancing isn’t possible — to recommendations.

“Coronavirus hospitalizations have decreased from where they were three weeks ago. As a result, we’re updating the state’s DHMs in keeping with our pandemic plan,” Ricketts said in the release. “The virus is still present in our communities, and we all need to continue using the tools we have to slow its spread. I especially urge Nebraskans to be mindful of at-risk loved ones when making plans to celebrate the holidays. Let’s all take personal responsibility to stay healthy and keep Nebraska headed in the right direction.”

Events with more than 500 people would still need to get approval, and the executive order allowing public officials the option to meet virtually will also remain in place.

During his news conference Friday morning, the governor said he still encourages people to take precautions.

“We’re telling people to continue to practice all the tools,” he said during Friday’s news conference. “We are loosening up some of the restrictions, but we still have restrictions in place. And again, this is all about managing our hospital capacity, which is what loosening the restrictions is all about.”

Nebraska has always used the state’s hospital bed capacity, not COVID-19 deaths, to guide response decisions.

“It’s a virus,” Ricketts said. “You cannot stop it from coming.”

The state is expecting its first allotment of the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive sometime next week but hasn’t yet confirmed details about the second shipment.

The governor also weighed in on the recent presidential election challenge out of Texas that has prompted several Republican lawmakers, including Nebraska congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith, to sign onto an amicus brief in support of the effort.

“We’re not challenging their laws,” Ricketts said. “We’re challenging their process.”

Watch Friday’s news conference

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