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State institutes additional measures to fight virus

State institutes additional measures to fight virus

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LINCOLN – Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday announced renewed restrictions aimed at trying to slow the spread of coronavirus while continuing to reject calls or suggestions that he institute a mask mandate.

Ricketts, noting that hospitalizations in the state have tripled in just over a month, told Nebraskans they need to “step up” and redouble their efforts to fight COVID-19.

Among the changes to the statewide directed health measure, which will take effect Wednesday, are a reduction to capacity at indoor gatherings from 50% to 25%.

The updated directed health measure also now mandates a 6-foot separation in bars, restaurants, churches, gyms and other settings. That previously was a recommendation.

He also mandated that masks are required in any business where close contact occurs for more than 15 minutes. Some examples he gave were salons, tattoo parlors and massage therapy businesses.

However, he said he would not consider a statewide mask mandate.

“I think a mask mandate would create resistance from people,” Ricketts said in answer to a volley of questions at a news conference.

His new directed health measure also limits spectator attendance at youth extracurricular activities to only members of the participant’s household.

“We really need folks to pitch in and help out, so we can slow the spread of the virus and protect hospital capacity,” Ricketts said.

COVID-19 case numbers have exploded in the past few weeks statewide, doubling to average well more than 1,000 new cases per day.

As of Sunday night, there were 794 people hospitalized in the state. A month ago, that number was below 300.

Ricketts did say that he believes hospital capacity in the state remains “robust,” noting that 31% of intensive-care beds and 71% of ventilators remain available.

The new directed health measure will be in effect at least until Nov. 30.

Ricketts said he is “taking steps here to manage the pandemic (and) will evaluate whether we need to do something different” as time moves on.

COVID-19 case numbers have exploded in the past few weeks statewide, doubling to average well more than 1,000 new cases per day.

As of Sunday night, there were 794 people hospitalized in the state. A month ago, that number was below 300.

Ricketts did say that he believes hospital capacity in the state remains “robust,” noting that 31% of intensive-care beds and 71% of ventilators remain available.

The new directed health measure will be in effect at least until Nov. 30.

Ricketts said he is “taking steps here to manage the pandemic (and) will evaluate whether we need to do something different” as time moves on.

After being careful and wearing masks in public, Brashear said, “we let our guard down a little bit” by inviting friends to his home and contracting the virus during that social interaction.

Ricketts defended Taylor Gage, his strategic communications director, for a series of exchanges between Gage and a number of medical doctors on Twitter after some of them argued for stronger actions by the governor to control COVID-19 in Nebraska.

“Ideas are going to be challenged” as part of conversations on Twitter, Ricketts said. “It’s a way of exchanging ideas.”

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