With coronavirus restrictions easing across state, Ricketts says it’s time to return to a more normal life


Ricketts touts revenue, virus response in legislative speech

Gov. Pete Ricketts walks back to his office after addressing lawmakers in Lincoln in July. 

Lincoln and Lancaster County stood alone Monday in retaining a limited array of coronavirus control restrictions as the rest of the state moved into a new and more relaxed phase that Gov. Pete Ricketts said will “allow people to return to a more normal life.”

While the governor said he disagrees with the need for Lincoln and Lancaster County to remain in Phase 3 restrictions that include some group and distancing limitations in restaurants and bars, along with other indoor venues, he acknowledged that the county has a special “carve-out” that allows it to take independent action.

That includes authority to issue the mask mandate that currently is in effect. A City Council-approved mask mandate remains in place in Omaha even as Douglas County moves to Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan.

“I think we’re able to move forward,” Ricketts said during a news conference at the Capitol.

State moving to Phase 4 of reopening as case, hospital numbers rise

“I think we are taking appropriate steps to go back to a more normal life while continuing to manage the spread of the virus,” he said.

Ricketts continued to urge Nebraskans to maintain social distancing and to wear masks “when appropriate” in order to help manage the virus.

“I know people are tired of this,” he said. “I get it. But we need to continue to manage it.

“I am not in favor of mandates,” the governor said, preferring instead to educate people about the need to wear a mask when grocery shopping or in other crowded indoor conditions and to maintain physical distancing and avoid crowds.

Phase 4 mandates include limiting crowds in large indoor venues to 75% of capacity. 

The next step would be “no directed health measure,” Ricketts said. “No restrictions, like pre-pandemic.”

Lincoln’s decision to adopt a mask mandate was triggered, in part, in anticipation of University of Nebraska students returning to the Lincoln campus and the accompanying spread of the virus in the community.

Lancaster County has reported more coronavirus cases than any county in the state in the past 14 days.

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Ricketts described the virus as “simmering” and said there will continue to be “an amount of virus transmission.”

“We’re going to continue to manage this,” he said. 

Hospital capacity remains robust, he suggested.

Latest figures: 36% of hospital beds available; 35% of intensive care unit beds available; 83% of ventilators available.

The state reported 147 new cases Monday, setting the total number of cases at 38,335. There have been 434 deaths linked to the disease in Nebraska.

On other matters, Ricketts turned the spotlight on military caregivers who are largely family members who help veterans manage their injuries at home, often with care-giving that amounts to a full-time job.

The governor signed a proclamation designating those caregivers as “Hidden Heroes.”

Andrea Dorsey of Omaha, whose husband, Joe, was wounded in Iraq, participated in the event along with John Hilgert, director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Joe Dorsey was injured in an IED explosion in 2004, returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders and neck and back injuries that have progressively worsened over the years.

Andrea, a public school teacher, is also the mother of two children.

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Milestones in coronavirus fight

Milestones in Lincoln and Nebraska’s coronavirus fight

See the top stories on coronavirus in Lincoln and Nebraska since the pandemic first affected the area in March.

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The touring version of the iconic ’60s rock ’n’ roll band brought the “fun, fun, fun” to Pinewood Bowl on Sunday even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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As of late afternoon Friday, forms to learn remotely had been submitted for about 16% of LPS students, kindergarten registrations were down by about 120 students compared with last year, and statewide applications for home schooling are up 21%.

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A group of Community Breastfeeding Educators found dads from their cultural communities to share a pandemic safety message with their fellow dads to help keep families free of the virus.

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“We’re treating it like a civil matter,” Lincoln City Attorney Yohance Christie said Saturday evening. “In order to enforce a civil matter, you go to court.”

The Omaha site will seek about 350 participants for the COVID-19 vaccine trial. “They’re the true heroes here.”

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Jocelyn Herstein lives in Lincoln but has a German fiance living in Switzerland; they and others like them bear the brunt of travel restrictions. 

COVID-19 risk dial improves slightly as city's mask mandate continues

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Masks won't be required in Omaha, Douglas County health director says

Adi Pour said Nebraska Attorney General’s Office questioned her ability to implement a mask requirement.

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The in-person portion of the fair looked much different Thursday, with none of the usual extras including rides, carnival games, food stands and entertainers. It seemed that there were more animals on the fairgrounds than people.

COVID-19 restrictions eased in more Nebraska counties

Come Saturday, 27 of the state’s 93 counties will be clear of most restrictions prompted by the coronavirus.

More than half of COVID-19 cases in the past three weeks have hit those between 21 and 29.

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Students will attend in-person classes two or three days a week based on their last name.

Traveling to Chicago? Go now, or expect a long, lonely (and quarantined) visit

Last week, New York. This week, Chicago. COVID quarantine orders could limit your travel plans.

36 of 41 inmates in one Douglas County Jail unit test positive for coronavirus

The housing unit where the outbreak occurred is separate from the intake area where more than 100 protesters were processed over the weekend, a spokesperson said.

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Journal Star photographers have captured life in the city for the past months with some activities going on as usual but many sights out of the norm.

Going back to school: One teacher's decision in a pandemic
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So far, 376 employees have asked for some kind of accommodations from LPS, including requests to work remotely, take leave or modify their work spaces with plexiglass barriers or additional PPE.

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Despite the closures announced Saturday, many young Lincoln residents went out in the area that night to drink and dine. Many were seated in outdoor areas, but some bars had a number of patrons indoors as well.

Lancaster County sets record for weekly COVID-19 cases

Lancaster County broke last week’s record for the most cases of COVID-19 reported in a single week.

Two bars and Railyard commons area ordered to close for violating coronavirus health measures

Two downtown bars, along with the Railyard commons area, have been ordered to close for violations of the city’s directed health measure.

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Celebrations were in order for Lincoln Southwest graduates as they streamed out of Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday morning. Inside, it was time to get to work.

UNL announces COVID-19 testing plans, other precautions for fall semester
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University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, faculty and staff will have access to COVID-19 testing this fall through a University Health Center p…

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Getting to celebrate high school graduation at an in-person ceremony was the first “yes” Marysa A. Barnhill heard in a while after a constant …

Southeast Nebraska communities close public buildings because of COVID-19; 29 new cases in Lancaster County

A recent spike of cases in Thayer County was linked to golf tournaments in Clay Center and York.

What if an effective early indicator of the spread of COVID-19 isn’t the number of nasal swabs performed, or contacts interviewed, but instead what has been flushed down the toilet?

LPS superintendent: Masks are key to opening schools safely; wearing them will be enforced
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District officials have a contact tracing and notification plan in place for the “likely event” that a student or staff member is exposed to coronavirus, Steve Joel said.

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Wearing a mask is “just one tool” in controlling the virus, along with social distancing and hand-washing, Gov. Ricketts said, and “I think we get better compliance if you don’t make it a mandate.”

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Ricketts says social distancing key now in keeping virus under control

“Ten percent of Nebraskans have been tested,” the governor said. “That’s a good number. That’s progress.”

Nebraska surpasses 20,000 cases of COVID-19

Cases in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy County are growing fastest in the state.  

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From Christmas lights in Minden to a COVID-19 test relay by the State Patrol, many people have stepped up to spread cheer and kindness in Linc…

Nebraska State Fair to go on without many of the bells and whistles

Plans are to host 4-H exhibits and contests on the first weekend of the fair, and FFA activities on the second weekend. The fair might “go dark” during the week, director Bill Ogg said.

Frost says five Husker football players tested positive for COVID-19 since early April
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Nebraska has tested roughly 250 student-athletes and staff, and there have been eight positive tests, including five football players.

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The decision by Lincoln Public Schools to bring staff and students back to school in the fall, Brent Toalson worried, would pose too great a chance that he could expose his family to the virus.

More young people testing positive for COVID-19, local health officials say
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So far this month, 65% of the positive cases have been in people under 40, interim Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department Director Pat Lopez said Friday.

Nebraska woman angry about COVID risk after encounter with Kansas couple

A Nebraska woman claims a county official from Kansas and his wife may have exposed her to COVID-19 at a hotel pool in Valentine.

State Sen. Mike Moser was working outside in his yard the night before Mother’s Day when it became apparent something was wrong.

If you are hoping antibody testing for COVID-19 might help in getting things back to normal until there’s a vaccine, you’re likely to be disap…

Parents speak out against masks in schools; LPS still figuring out pandemic costs
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Parents who oppose having students and staff wear masks when school resumes in the fall asked the Lincoln Board of Education to reconsider the…

Garth Brooks' drive-in concert at Lancaster Event Center is sellout
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The Event Center pre-party will feature Omaha country band Silas Creek with food trucks on the grounds and beverage sales.

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The University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus will look a lot different for the fall 2020 semester.

“Customers may be encouraged to wear face coverings, but may not be refused service for failure to do so,” according to Taylor Gage, the governor’s spokesman.

LPS planning for 'full school' beginning Aug. 12, but will adjust based on virus spread

Much of what the coming school year will look like — masks for students or remote learning — depends on the “risk dial” maintained by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

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Less than a day after announcing plans to hold drive-thru graduations at high schools, Lincoln Public Schools made arrangements for modified in-person ceremonies to be held at the arena.

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With reopening comes heightened safety concerns for Nebraska businesses

The Heartland Workers Center has seen somewhat disastrous results from employees not knowing what’s going on in their workplaces. 

COVID-19 risk dial improved in Lincoln as cases continue to drop

The risk dial remains in the moderate category, but the dial inched closer to the low risk area.

Potential COVID-19 Nebraska ag losses pegged at $3.7 billion

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All ages now can get screened for coronavirus; protests spur change

Pat Lopez, interim director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, stressed the importance of tests for those who gathered among large crowds. 

Nebraska prisons to offer coronavirus testing to all inmates; 19th staffer tests positive

Inmates in Nebraska’s 10 prisons may voluntarily seek coronavirus testing even if they show no symptoms, Nebraska Department of Correctional S…

Two members of National Guard who assisted Lincoln police during protests test positive for coronavirus

Officials said they plan to test all National Guard personnel who have been on duty assisting police in Lincoln and Omaha.

2nd case of coronavirus complication reported in Omaha boy

Nebraska now has a second case of a coronavirus-related complication that affects children.

They call it “window wellness,” a visit to residents of assisted-living facilities who can’t have visitors in the buildings because of COVID-19 precautions. 

Lincoln’s first person identified to have a case of community spread COVID-19 had his family tested for antibodies. Both the results and what they mean are mixed.

Virus hits 11 workers, 1 patient at Lincoln Regional Center

Eleven employees and one patient have tested positive for the coronavirus at the state-run psychiatric hospital in Lincoln.

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A Lincoln woman started a Facebook photo page to share pictures of what she was making during the pandemic. She thought she’d be lucky to get 80 members.

WATCH NOW: Available state data shows Nebraskans of color hit hard by COVID-19

Though state-level data about the effects of COVID-19 on Nebraskans remain incomplete, the numbers indicate minorities were diagnosed with the…

Local health officials say Lincoln won't host 2020 National High School Finals Rodeo

On a calendar void of the Red-White Spring Game, the Lincoln Marathon and the blue jackets of the annual state FFA convention, the loss of the…

Bryan, CHI Health relax visitor restrictions

Starting Monday, adult patients will be allowed one healthy adult visitor.

“I wouldn’t be running this test in this laboratory if I didn’t believe in it,” said CHI Health St. Elizabeth lab director Becky Croner. “… If there is any reason I don’t believe the results are correct, we pull it and run it again.”

Bryan takes flak for promoting use of masks

Bob Ravenscroft said Bryan Health has experienced some “pretty pointed” criticism that its stance on masks is politically motivated. 

Lincoln's Uncle Sam Jam canceled over pandemic gathering concerns
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No official city fireworks this year, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said. What do you think of the decision?

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Six weeks ago, a Boy Scout from Firth launched a 3-D printing project to help the sore ears of frontline workers during the pandemic; he’s shipping free EarSavers all over the country now.

After 30 days at the medical center and three weeks of isolation at her father’s home in west Omaha, Emma Hutchinson was allowed to resume eating solid food and say goodbye to “Fred,” her nickname for the feeding tube.

Lancaster County crosses threshold of 1,000 COVID-19 cases

More than 1,000 residents have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Lincoln and Lancaster County, health officials announced Friday.

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Monday’s flyover was part of a pre-planned training flight and included more than 30 Nebraska hospitals, ending with those in Lincoln. 

48-year-old woman with COVID-19 accused of spitting on walls at Lincoln hospital, assaulting nurse

Prosecutors charged Nyadak Tut, of Lincoln, with assault on a health care professional, a felony.

Lincoln woman had fever, shakes, headache, trouble breathing and a negative COVID-19 test

A Lincoln woman exhibited many of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 but tested negative — doctors say she’s not the only one.

AGs in 14 states to Trump: Let's hold China accountable

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson are taking the lead on the coalition. The letter is also signed by attorneys general in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.

City Hall: Police bust wild parties, but no tickets written for violating Lincoln's directed health measure

Lincoln police didn’t write any tickets for a violation of Lancaster County’s directed health measure, according to city officials.

For Marci Davison of Carmela’s, and other Lincoln business owners, reopening after a trying six weeks marked a milestone of sorts.

Nebraska records 100th coronavirus-linked death

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Nebraska reached the century mark on Monday, with deaths reported in hard-hit Douglas, Hall and Dawson counties.

Gov. Pete Ricketts called the suggestion “ludicrous.”

Medical professionals acknowledge the pressure from both sides about reopening, and the effects of economic turmoil. But health effects of the disease and deaths are equally important, they say.

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While facing technological, social and financial challenges, the percentage of students who did at least some coursework ranged from 44% at North Star to 90% at Southwest, and most schools had less than 60% of students engaging, according to rough estimates.

Face masks, employee temperature checks required for Lincoln businesses

The city begins its new directed health measure on Monday. It runs through June 30.

On Thursday, during both National Nurses Week and National Hospitals Week, the selfie walls were installed at both Bryan East and Bryan West Campus hospitals.

Lincoln, Lancaster County to reluctantly adopt eased restrictions Ricketts outlined

Lincoln and Lancaster County will implement eased restrictions beginning Monday, after Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and her health director relu…

Ricketts confident his coronavirus policy is working

Gov. Ricketts said he has tried to balance restrictions with a regional loosening of mandates that preserves citizen willingness and responsibility, an approach sometimes described as “the hammer and the dance.” 

23 new cases confirmed in Lancaster County; national analysis identifies Lincoln as rising hotspot

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Lincoln and Lancaster County has led a national coronavirus case tracking system to label the area as a pote…

Months of planning and entire careers in public health have prepared the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department for what one employee called “the most defining moment of most of our lives.”

NU women's basketball player Kate Cain says her family has recovered after battle with coronavirus

Cain revealed on a video posted to Huskers.com that some of her immediate family members have recovered after bouts with coronavirus.

Immigrant who worked at Tyson's Dakota City plant for 37 years succumbs to COVID-19

Viengxay Khuninh, a worker at a Tyson plant in Dakota City, developed a cough, then a fever, last month. Less than a week later, he was dead.

Air National Guard member spends several weeks working in New York City hospital, goes home with COVID-19.

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“The stories that came from those families, you could hear the common themes — I’m frightened, my hours were reduced, I’ve never been in this situation before,” said Foundation for LPS President Wendy Van DeLaCastro.

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So why did one customer come to Gateway Friday? “Sick of sitting at home. Wanted to get a new pair of kicks. My wife’s at work. I’ve got nothing to do.”

Majority of coronavirus deaths in Nebraska have come from long-term care patients

At least 48 of those who have died in Nebraska thus far because of the coronavirus were residents of long-term care facilities.

Arnold Zimmerman’s family had his obituary written. 

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How the 1918 influenza pandemic and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic are similar — and different.

Bryan Health said Wednesday that it has started treating COVID-19 patients with blood plasma from people who have recovered from the disease.

Funerals in Nebraska during a pandemic: 'Our hearts go out to the families'
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Lincoln funeral homes are staggering visitations and live-streaming services in the time of coronavirus.

As bad as the losses from major event cancellations are, economists say the economic damage they cause is likely to pale compared to the effects of the widespread closings of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses.

Tournament attendance will be limited to immediate family members of coaches and players.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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