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Noting rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Ricketts moves Nebraska vaccine priorities to Phase 2B

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 9:32 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts opened Monday’s news conference with a word of caution about containing the spread of COVID-19, noting that after 18 weeks of declining hospitalizations, Nebraska was seeing an increase.

“We are seeing more virus out there in the community,” he said, reminding Nebraskans of the “three Cs.”

With the nation due to receive 5.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week — more than double the previous allotments — Nebraska is expecting to get 27,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson, 25,740 doses of Pfizer, and 19,200 Moderna doses. The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program is expanding to 40,000 pharmacies nationwide, but the governor said the state hasn’t been informed specifically how many doses will be coming into Nebraska communities through this program.

As the state moves into Phase 2B, expanding the option for local health districts to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to all residents ages 16 or 18 and older, depending on which vaccine is made available, Ricketts urged Nebraskans to register for their eligibility notification at vaccinate.ne.gov or call 1-833-998-2275 to get assistance doing so.

The state’s COVID-19 dashboard was showing Monday morning that 25% of Nebraskans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Ricketts received his COVID-10 vaccination on Saturday in Omaha. He said he had a sore arm afterward, but that’s it.

The governor said Nebraska has ranked in the top five nationwide for the vaccination of seniors and vulnerable populations, and 14th for vaccinating of populations of 100,000 or more. That’s down from last week when the state was ranked eighth, but Ricketts said those rankings fluctuate often.

The bottom line is that Nebraskans should get vaccinated, the governor said. “We want to get people vaccinated because ultimately that’s how we get through this pandemic.”

Vaccinating students

Also on Monday, Ricketts said he will not support mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for college students and staff.

Following the governor’s news conference, UNO officials told 6 News that they have no plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students, faculty, or staff before allowing in-person learning on campus — but will continue to require mask usage and social distancing.

“While voluntary, the UNO campus community is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated to protect against COVID-19,” a UNO spokesperson said Monday. “We continue to share information about vaccine availability with all students, faculty and staff through ongoing collaboration with the Douglas County Health Department.”

COVID-19 testing is also available on UNO’s campus for anyone who is experiencing symptoms.

Creighton officials also said it “strongly recommends” vaccination for all new and returning students, and that it “is hopeful that the progress being made against the virus, including vaccinations, will continue.”

Rent assistance expands to Omaha

Omaha launched its portal for tenants and landlords to apply for COVID-19 rent aid on Monday, joining Lincoln-Lancaster County in offering assistance to Nebraska’s two metropolitan areas. The state opened its financial assistance portal for renters and landlords impacted by the pandemic in other areas in February.

Focus on minorities

Josie Rodriguez, with the Department of Health Disparities, said Nebraska is working to advance health equity in the state and get the word out to minority communities about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Follow-up comments on Georgia election law

Asked about his tweets over the weekend, Ricketts said Monday that much “disinformation” has been spread about Georgia’s new election law that includes changes in voter access. The governor criticized comments made by President Biden on the matter, saying the president was “making a lot of misstatements that’s just factually not accurate.”

Watch Monday’s news conference

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