Nebraska Powered Through Together
By Governor Pete Ricketts
June 28, 2021
Governor’s official photo here.
On March 13, 2020, I issued a proclamation declaring a State of Emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic. The State of Emergency existed over the last year to help Nebraska mobilize resources to respond to the pandemic. This is a separate measure from the State’s Directed Health Measures (DHM), which ended a few weeks ago. The DHMs had included quarantine directions and other restrictions that varied over the course of the event. This week, I announced that the State of Emergency would end on June 30, 2021, removing the last official pandemic measure issued by the State of Nebraska.
Looking back over the course of the pandemic, Nebraskans did what they do best by pulling together. In spite of the circumstances surrounding the virus, our state did very well. We slowed the spread of the virus. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, we had the third lowest coronavirus fatality rate in the nation among people who contracted the disease. Our state now has the second lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.6%, which is the lowest unemployment rate for Nebraska since 1999. We achieved all this without a stay-at-home order, without a statewide mask mandate, and with no vaccine mandate or passport system.
While I oppose vaccine mandates, I firmly believe that vaccines work and people should get vaccinated. Coronavirus is here to stay forever, and the vaccines can help keep people healthy. There are a couple of reasons why I oppose vaccine mandates. Right now, the vaccines are still under emergency use authorizations. And regardless of whenever it may receive full authorization, there will always be some people who cannot take the vaccine for personal health reasons. I continue to encourage Nebraskans to take responsibility for their own health, and to visit with their doctor about the vaccine to learn more about it and what is right for their health.
As the last vestiges of the pandemic fall away, Nebraskans can expect a few changes in the coming days.
First, Executive Orders (EO) that I issued during the pandemic are coming to an end. With the emergency ending, generally all remaining Executive Orders will expire July 30th. There are some limited exceptions that will continue. My EO regarding telehealth will continue through August 27th at 11:59pm CT. The Legislature enacted LB 400 and LB 487 to make permanent changes, and these bills take effect on August 28th. Two EOs related to ease of doing business and complying with federal requirements regarding unemployment will continue into next year to allow the Legislature to pass LB 567, which makes permanent changes to improve our unemployment system.
Second, I have laid out some expectations for school in the fall. Over the last 12 months, we had a very successful school year. Nebraska had the sixth-highest rate of kids learning in person in K-12 schools during the 2020-2021 academic year. The University of Nebraska was one of the first major university systems in the nation to announce a return to in-person learning. I’ve gotten many questions from Nebraskans about measures some education systems are weighing in the fall. I want to be clear that I have three key expectations: Learning will be in person; no masks will be required – even for those who are unvaccinated; and school systems shouldn’t mandate the vaccine.
Third, the state is winding down our Test Nebraska operation. This initiative provided no-cost, barrier-free coronavirus testing to Nebraskans for over a year during the pandemic. It delivered hundreds of thousands of free tests to Nebraskans, and helped hospitals and schools provide access to testing along the way. The last day to get a test will be July 18th before the operation closes down on July 31st.
Fourth, Local Health Departments (LHD) will be returning to more normal operations now that much of their work regarding the virus is wrapping up. At my press conference this week, I announced that I am encouraging LHDs to retire their risk dials as life returns to normal. The risk dials were used to calculate restrictions and other requirements by businesses and organizations.
Finally, I want to strongly urge private businesses and other organizations to drop any remaining coronavirus restrictions moving forward. There are certainly important habits such as handwashing and staying home when you feel ill that we can all continue to practice. But it’s time for the other measures to fall away. Whether you play college sports or work in private business, it’s time to move forward. While many organizations can move forward on their own, it’s important to note that there are some facilities that are still governed by federal rules. These include airports governed by the Transportation Security Administration and skilled nursing facilities, which have to follow federal rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
As we look back on all we’ve been through, I believe Nebraskans can be proud of the work everyone did over the last year. We helped keep people healthy while living a more normal life. We came together and avoided many of the battles and controversies that ensnared other places. And above all, we protected hospital capacity. If you have thoughts you’d like to share on this topic or any other, please email me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2244. Together, we powered through this difficult chapter with strength, grit, and resilience.