Gov. Ricketts ending Nebraska’s pandemic-related State of Emergency

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 10:21 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday he would allow the pandemic State of Emergency for Nebraska to expire at the end of the month.

Citing the continued low levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, the governor said the State of Emergency will officially end at 11:59 p.m. June 30, but all but two pandemic-related executive orders would expire a few days later.

“We’ve got to back to normal life,” he said.

Ricketts made statistical comparisons between the likelihood of dying in a car crash and the likelihood of dying from COVID-19, saying the former was greater than the latter.

While the number of new cases and hospitalizations — the benchmark the state has used to guide directed health measures — have tapered off in the months since COVID-19 vaccinations have been available, the virus remains more deadly when you look at the totals recorded last year.

Overall, far more Nebraskans died last year from COVID-19 than from traffic fatalities. In 2019, 249 people died on Nebraska roads; the highest number of fatalities the state has seen was in 2007 when 256 people died. In contrast, Nebraska recorded 1,651 COVID-19 deaths between March and December 2020. To date, Nebraska has reported 2,259 pandemic-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Nebraska’s COVID-19 dashboard currently shows 27 are currently hospitalized with the virus. Hospitalizations hit their peak at 987 in mid-November and have been on a steady decline since early May after a bit of an increase in April.

“I will let the scientists debate what ‘herd immunity’ is. We’re gonna focus on hospital capacity, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re letting this emergency come to an end,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts also said he expected that kids would be back in classrooms in the fall with no masks or COVID-19 vaccinations required, and encouraged businesses and other organizations to follow suit.

Meanwhile, the state’s contract with Test Nebraska will end July 31, he said. and telehealth will end in August. Testing will be available at Test Nebraska locations through July 18.

Ricketts encouraged Nebraskans to continue taking hygienic precautions and to practice social distancing when possible. He also repeatedly encouraged residents to get vaccinated. According to the state dashboard, 47.9% of the state is considered fully vaccinated.

“Vaccines work,” he said.

The governor noted that federal rules will still apply in some locations, like the airport and skilled nursing facilities.

But Ricketts was critical of the NCAA on their decision to essentially send NC State home over COVID-19 violations. Over the weekend, the NCAA declared the Vanderbilt-NC State game a no-contest, advancing Vanderbilt to the finals.

Watch Monday’s news conference

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