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Nebraska unveils vaccine dashboard as Phase 1 rollout continues

As vaccination of healthcare workers continues, state working on plan for long-term facilities, elderly
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts gives an update on the state's COVID-19 response on Monday morning,...
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts gives an update on the state's COVID-19 response on Monday morning, Dec. 21, 2020.
Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 9:01 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and other state officials gave an update on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine plan during Monday morning’s news conference.

The holidays seemed to slow the state’s progress on rolling out the vaccine, but the governor said Monday that he’s confident the state will get back on track, and that the next phase of vaccinations for those ages 75 and older would begin in two to three weeks.

In December, Nebraska obtained a total of 86,470 vaccine doses in the state: 63,070 primary doses and 23,400 doses for the federal pharmacy program to vaccinate those in long-term care facilities, according to an update from Angela Ling, incident commander for the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services. The state also received a shipment of secondary Pfizer doses last week, she said.

Ling also walked through the new features on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, which Nebraska DHHS plans to update daily as it tracks the state’s vaccinations and deployment. The dashboard will take into account whether the vaccine requires one or two doses, she said.

Ricketts said that declined vaccinations will not be tracked on the dashboard. The governor reminded Nebraskans that COVID-19 vaccination is completely voluntary, but encouraged the population to get the vaccination.

This week, Ling said, the state has received 11,200 doses of Moderna designated for healthcare providers; and 11,700 doses of Pfizer for use in the federal pharmacy program for long-term care facilities. More than 100 long term facilities were vaccinated by the federal pharmacy program as well as local health departments and other community partners, she said.

Vaccine shipments will continue to go to people in Phase 1A such as hospitals, community healthcare providers, federally qualified health centers, pharmacies, and local health departments, she said.

While working on getting vaccines to people in Phase 1A, officials will also simultaneously work to distribute vaccine to those in Phase 1B, prioritizing those ages 75 and older, Ling said. Vaccinations for this group will be distributed via “multiple methods,” such as community clinics with local health departments, healthcare providers, and pharmacy partners, she said.

“We are still finalizing those details and will get this information out as soon as possible,” Ling said. “In most areas, this phase will not start for another 2-3 weeks, so we ask for patience as we finalize these details.”

The state is planning to launch a website to get those in the priority group registered and to assist with scheduling vaccinations and follow-up reminders, she said.

Last week alone, Community Pharmacy said it was able to get nearly 9,000 long-term care residents and staff vaccinated. Government officials believe things will speed up even more once Costco, Walgreens, and CVS get into the mix.

In coming days, Ricketts said he will also outline how the people included in the next phase of COVID-19 vaccination eligibility can sign up to get vaccinated, whether it’s online or with a healthcare provider. His next update is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Nebraska COVID-19 cases update

Hospitalizations have continued to decline as the state remains in the “blue” category, which has allowed increased capacity indoors up to 75%.

The governor reminded Nebraskans to continue with protective measures in order to preserve the state’s hospital capacity, including wearing masks in public spaces, washing hands, and keeping at least six feet of distance from others. Ricketts also noted that quarantine and isolation when there’s a possibility of exposure are still in effect in the current DHMs.

Test Nebraska has been turning test results within 24-48 hours of testing, he said, and he encouraged continued COVID-19 testing.

Ricketts also gave an update on the state’s hospital capacity, saying that 36% of hospital beds were available across the state, 36% of ICU beds were available, and that 76% of the state’s ventilators were still available.

Renewable energy agreement

Another announcement made during the governor’s news conference Monday focused on a large renewable energy project Nebraska Public Power District has in the works with Monolith Materials.

Monolith has signed a letter of intent for NPPD to provide enough renewable energy to generate 2 million megawatt-hours every year. Tom Kent, president and CEO for NPPD, said the utility will collect proposals for wind and solar generation in March, and anticipates having agreements in place by Sept. 1.

“We make hydrogen,” Monolith co-founder and CEO Rob Hanson said Monday, later noting that carbon black was the company’s primary product when moving its operations to Nebraska.

The company was initially planning to use hydrogen to fire an existing coal-fired plant but will instead be converting it to anhydrous ammonia, “the mother of all fertilizers,” Hanson said.

The company, which was originally based in California but has since moved to Nebraska, is planning to house the project in southwest Omaha. Hanson said the project will use 1,000 acre-feet of water annually and will produce 300,000 tons of anhydrous ammonia — almost half the state’s demand; and 200,000 tons of carbon black, which is roughly 10% of the nation’s demand.

“Carbon black is essential to the transportation supply chain,” Hanson said. “It’s found in the paint of your car, under your hood in belts and hoses. If you drive an electric car, it’s both the anode and cathode of the battery. And most importantly, carbon black makes up one-third of every single car tire on this planet.”

With these new initiatives, Monolith is trying to improve the state — and national — economy, creating jobs and reducing the number of imports while producing high-value products, Hanson said.

“We’re hiring!” he said, referring interested parties to job postings on the company’s website.

Monolith has been studying the state’s resources along with leading hydrogeologists in order to assure the company isn’t having an adverse effect on the state’s resources, Hanson said, noting that “the early read is that there’s lots of water... from a renewable aquifer — not a finite resource.”

“Our No. 1 mission is to have a positive environmental impact. So we’re going to live by that, and we’re going to study this in great detail, and are very confident the water resources are there without having a negative environmental impact,” Hanson said.

Watch Monday’s news conference

Digital producer Taleisha Newbill and reporter Brian Mastre contributed to this report.

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