Phase 2: Nebraska prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations for ages 50+ next week

Nebraska DHHS: Some health districts still working through Phases 1B, 1C
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 9:42 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 19, 2021 at 9:49 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Monday, the state will move into Phase 2 in the state’s vaccination plan, opening COVID-19 vaccine to Nebraskans ages 50-64 and anyone with underlying conditions — if health districts so choose — Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Friday.

Some local health districts are running behind, however, and will still be working through Phase 1B next week and then Phase 1C starting Monday, March 29, according to Angie Ling, incident commander with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile, the rest of the state shift their focus to vaccinating younger populations, with local health districts having the option to designate 10% of their dose allotments to also vaccinate those with pre-existing conditions who are younger than age 50. Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has decided to do just that, Ricketts said.

“We’re going to continue focusing on age,” the governor said, noting that more than twice as many COVID-19 deaths have occurred among those ages 50-59 than those in all younger age groups combined.

Officials encouraged any Nebraskan of any age to submit their information via the state’s online registration portal — regardless of whether they currently qualify for a COVID-19 vaccination — so that they’re already in the system when it is their turn.

“Your turn will be here before you know it,” Ling said.

Ling reported Friday that the state had received 25,740 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 18.400 doses of Moderna. She said the state was also expecting Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution to resume the week of March 29, with a shipment of at least 2,200 doses weekly.

Ricketts said the state has distributed 690,000 vaccine doses, including 253,000 on Thursday — the most single-day vaccination total for the state yet.

The governor said Friday that the CDC had Nebraska ranked fifth in the nation in terms of vaccination of the state’s most vulnerable population; and eighth in doses administered per populations of 100,000 people ages 18 and older.

Ling said the accolades affirm the state’s plan is working.

“The goals that we decided on are holding true,” she said.

The state has more than 71% of the population ages 65 and older vaccinated, she said. The state has about 350,000 residents ages 50-64, but 90,000 — or 26% — have already received vaccinations in Phase 1A and 1B groups, she said.

Ricketts reported that 32% of hospital beds are available across the state with 129 — or 3% — hospitalized with COVID-19. The state has also conducted more than COVID-19 tests on more than 716,000 people, with Test Nebraska turnaround times at about 14 hours, the governor said. Nebraska has also remained at a 5% positivity rate for the last five or six weeks, he said.

Nebraska received funds from FEMA and are planning to use it to reimburse communities’ staff costs for vaccination and provide tablets, medical equipment, and even tents and generators those communities will need in coming months as they continue to administer COVID-19 vaccine.

Ricketts blasts telecom prioritization

The governor also addressed reports that the Douglas County Health Department is vaccinating telecom companies, calling it “a huge mistake.”

“That is outside the guidelines. They’re not supposed to be doing that. They made a mistake,” he said. “We told them weeks ago that telecoms are not part of utilities, and for whatever reason, they decided to go forward with telecom companies... and that’s actually taking away vaccines from those vulnerable people we’re trying to focus on.”

The state would be following up with Douglas County health officials, Ricketts said, and “get them to correct that, because they really need to be focusing those vaccines on people who are going to be vulnerable.”

Other topics

STATE TAX DEADLINE: Ricketts said Nebraska would be moving its tax deadline back to May 17 to align with the IRS deadline extension announced earlier this week.

‘MEAT ON THE MENU’ DAY: The governor reminded Nebraskans to eat a hamburger or steak on Saturday to celebrate “Meat on the Menu” day. The observance was set up to contrast with Colorado’s “MeatOut Day,” which Ricketts poked fun at, saying “Who wants to eat 3 ounces of quinoa?”

Watch Friday’s news conference

This is a developing story. Stay with 6 News for updates.

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