Gov. Ricketts announces elective surgeries will resume May 4

Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 1:05 PM CDT
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During his daily COVID-19 response press conference Monday, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced some of the restrictions -- otherwise known as directed health measures -- will begin to be rescinded concerning elective surgeries.

Beginning May 4 hospitals will be allowed to do elective surgeries again -- under the right circumstances.

Hospitals must have at least 30 percent of their beds open, 30 percent of their ICU beds open and 30 percent of ventilators ready to use while maintaining two weeks worth of PPE.

"Just because we say it's elective surgery does not mean it is unnecessary. It just means that it was planned," Ricketts added.

Elective surgery is also important revenue for hospitals to stay in business and continue to care for patients including those diagnosed with COVID-19.

Dentists and veterinarians will also be allowed to perform surgeries May 4 as well as eye doctors.

Coronavirus testing restrictions will also be loosened. It will allow health care providers to test the patients they want who are showing symptoms.

Ricketts also commented on the day's date -- April 20 -- being the "marijuana smokers' holiday" as a reminder to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana create particulates which creates inflammation in the lungs.

Which can complicate being diagnosed or treated for COVID-19, he said.

Nebraska Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health Dr. Gary Anthone said COVID-19 is a serious threat made even more serious for those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or vape.

"People who inhale combustible chemicals we know it creates inflammation, it can add to the viral load in the lungs and be devastating for your pulmonary condition," Anthone said.

Smokers are more susceptible to severe symptoms for COVID-19, he added.

Rickett's said $3 billion has been loaned out to small businesses in the state through the Payroll Protection Program.

On meat processing plants being hotbeds for the virus to spread, Ricketts said the state has worked with the managers of such facilities to increase safety measures there.

Anthone said there is a team working to keep track of positive cases at nursing homes in the state. For processing plants, there is a system in place to track the numbers, as well, but he could not give specifics at the time.

Nearly half of the positive tests reported over the weekend were from food processing plants, Ricketts said.

"If you look right now, even in Grand Island, we are able to manage this. What you're looking at with hospitalization is it's not being overwhelmed," he said in regard to easing restrictions on surgeries.

WATCH -- Gov. Ricketts is talking about plans to reopen Nebraska "gradually," starting with elective surgeries. More from today's update:

Posted by WOWT 6 News on Monday, April 20, 2020