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Avoid the Three Cs

Avoid the Three Cs

By Governor Pete Ricketts

October 21, 2020

 

Governor’s official photo here

 

More than seven months after coming to Nebraska, the coronavirus is still here.  Back in April, Dr. James Lawler from the University of Nebraska Medical Center cautioned that we were only in the second inning of the pandemic.  I wish I could tell you that we’re in the bottom of the ninth.  I know Nebraskans are weary of the pandemic and the restrictions in place to combat the coronavirus.  The reality, however, is that we’re still in the middle innings.  There’s a long way to go.

 

From the beginning, our plan has been to protect hospital capacity so that every Nebraskan who needs acute care can get it.  We can’t stop the virus, but we can take action to slow the spread to maintain access to hospital beds and medical treatment.  We’ve successfully protected our hospital system throughout the pandemic.  As of October 21st, we have 38% of hospital beds, 33% of ICU beds, and 81% of ventilators available.

 

While hospital capacity remains strong, COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen to an all-time high this month.  We’ve been in ongoing conversation with hospitals to discuss ways to support the great work they’re doing to care for Nebraskans.  The State is allocating $40 million of CARES Act funds to help hospitals add capacity.  This will allow hospitals to increase nursing staff and respiratory therapists, support screening of incoming patients, and provide funds to pay current staff working additional shifts.

 

In light of rising hospitalizations, we’ve also announced changes to our Directed Health Measures (DHMs).  The new DHMs are effective statewide as of Wednesday, October 21st.  It pains me to put restrictions in place that impact our personal liberties.  I don’t like government interfering in private enterprise.  However, these measures are necessary to preserve our hospital capacity.  In writing the new DHMs, we’ve tried to use as light of a touch as possible to slow the increasing number of hospitalizations.

 

The new DHMs include the following changes:

  • Elective Procedures/Surgeries
    • In order to continue elective procedures, hospitals must maintain at least 10% of their staffed general and ICU beds as reserve capacity to treat coronavirus patients.
    • Hospitals must continue to accept and treat COVID-19 patients and must not transfer COVID-19 patients to create capacity for elective procedures.
    • Hospitals may also submit a surge plan to continue to perform elective surgeries.
  • Gatherings
    • INDOOR gatherings will be limited to 50% of rated occupancy (not to exceed 10,000).  This is scaled back from the previous cap of 75%.
    • OUTDOOR gatherings will remain at 100% of rated occupancy (not to exceed 10,000).
    • Groups shall be no larger than eight (8) individuals.
    • Plans must still be submitted to local health departments and approved for all gatherings of 500+ (1,000+ in Douglas County).
  • Bars & Restaurants
    • Patrons will be required to be seated unless they are placing an order, using the restroom, or playing games.
    • 100% of rated occupancy continues.
    • Maximum of eight (8) individuals in a party (groups larger than eight (8) will need to split into multiple tables).
  • Wedding & Funeral Reception Venues
    • Maximum of eight (8) individuals in a party (groups larger than eight (8) will need to split into multiple tables).
    • 100% of rated occupancy continues.

 

Aside from the restrictions above, there are no other changes to the DHMs.  This means that gyms, salons, and religious services—which are not defined as “gatherings” under the State’s DHMs—remain able to operate up to 100% occupancy.  Even so, it’s extremely important for patrons of these establishments to practice social distancing or wear face coverings when possible.

 

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state, we’ve launched a new campaign to encourage Nebraskans to stay committed to good health habits.  We’re calling on all Nebraskans to Avoid the Three Cs: 1) crowded places, 2) close contacts, and 3) confined spaces.  Avoid gathering in groups where you can’t maintain six-feet distance from others.  Wear a mask or maintain six-feet distance when you’re with people outside of your household.  Avoid enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

 

Our public health departments report that many of the new cases they’re tracing have come from informal gatherings in people’s homes.  It’s important to remember that just because you’re well-acquainted with someone, does not mean they can’t transmit the virus to you.  I encourage Nebraskans, even in private settings, to avoid the Three Cs.

 

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve trusted Nebraskans to exercise common sense and good judgment in their social interactions.  Nebraskans have responded as they usually do: by looking after their neighbors and doing the right thing.  I’m confident folks in our state will continue to exercise good judgment.  This will help preserve our hospital capacity and prevent the need for more restrictive measures.

 

As we manage the virus, there is good news to report.  Students have successfully returned to the classroom this fall to resume in-person learning.  Restaurants are welcoming back diners, Main Street shops have reopened to customers, and religious congregants are gathering to worship.  We’ll also finally get to see Husker football this weekend as the Big Red takes on Ohio State.  As we return to a more normal life, we’re seeing encouraging signs of growth.  In fact, Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at just 3.5%.  

 

There’s no reason why we can’t be active so long as we stay smart.  Over the coming weeks, I urge Nebraskans to avoid the Three Cs to help slow the spread of the virus.  If you have questions about Nebraska’s coronavirus response, please email pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244.  We’re committed to keeping our hospitals and healthcare system in good shape, while also giving Nebraskans the freedom to live a more normal life.