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Omaha woman petitions for high-risk people to be back in Phase 1B

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 2:09 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An Omaha woman started a petition last week asking Gov. Pete Ricketts to put people with high-risk medical conditions back into phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan.

As of Tuesday morning, Mura O’Neill Rohe’s petition already had close to 1,500 signatures.

O’Neill Rohe doesn’t have a medical condition; she’s fighting for someone else. Her husband of nearly 13 years is fighting Stage 4 cancer and became the driving force behind her petition.

“As we speak, he’s doing what is the first of a two-step process for a major surgery where they’re going to remove part of his liver and the next part is in 4-6 weeks, and we had been really, really, really hoping he would get at least 1 shot before that surgery, and now we know that’s not going to happen,” O’Neill Rohe said.

Ricketts announced last week that people with pre-existing conditions were being removed from Phase 1B and that the focus was shifting more to age because the majority of people dying from COVID-19 in Nebraska are 65 and older.

O’Neill Rohe said the older population should be high on the list, but that people with pre-existing conditions should, too.

She’s happy to see the growing support on the petition.

“There’s kind of a silent -up until now- community of people in our situation who felt that, until a few days ago, they were going to get vaccinated soon and then found out that they weren’t,” Rohe said. “And all of those people have friends and family who know exactly how tough it’s been on people in our situation.”

O’Neill Rohe says her family has had to make big sacrifices over the last year to mitigate the risk wherever they can. She and her husband’s 7-year-old daughter hasn’t gone to school in a year or even played with a friend.

“Think back to March and April last year when this all started and people stopped going out. When people were wiping down their groceries and not gathering with anyone and not doing anything - that never ended for us.”

Mura O’Neill Rohe hopes to send the governor a message.

“My message to Gov. Pete Ricketts is that we’re not trying to jump the line. We just want our next place in line. "

InO’Neill Rohe’s case, a vaccine for her husband — sooner rather than later — would bring back a sense of comfort and normalcy they’ve been longing for.

“It adds that extra belief that if something happened, it wouldn’t kill him and that’s the fear that we’ve lived with every day for the last year,” she said. “We’ve spent every day of the last year being afraid, and it would mean we wouldn’t have to be afraid of this anymore. We’re used to being afraid of cancer and we’re used to fighting that, but being afraid every day of not being able to share a meal with his mother before he has a major surgery, to be able to send my daughter back to school and give her some more normalcy back in her life, especially as we navigate the surgery of my husband and his recovery.”

O’Neill Rohe doesn’t know whether things will change, but she hopes to get more signatures on her petition and send it to the governor. She said she will continue to be an advocate and a voice for people with pre-existing conditions who want a vaccine and can’t yet get one.

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