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Staying Healthy for the Holidays

Staying Healthy for the Holidays

By Governor Pete Ricketts

December 1, 2020


Governor’s official photo here


There is an old saying, “it’s always darkest before the dawn.”  It has two meanings.  The first is that, despite difficulties, there is hope on the horizon.  The second meaning is that circumstances can be at their very worst right before things get better.  As we enter December, there are reasons to hope an effective vaccine will become available soon—on a limited basis even this month.  At the same time, we may be entering the toughest stretch of the pandemic this winter as people head indoors.  It’s time for all of us to put our trademark Nebraska grit and determination to work as we buckle up for the coming months of the pandemic.


On May 15, 2020 the Trump Administration announced Operation Warp Speed to rapidly develop a coronavirus vaccine.  The program appears to be making remarkable progress.  Two vaccines, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna, have proven to be highly effective in clinical trials.  Both of the vaccines are being reviewed by regulatory agencies.  It’s likely each of them will be authorized for emergency use by mid-December.  Manufacturers have already produced millions of doses.  Perhaps as many as 40 million doses will be available this month. 


Initially, vaccinations will be limited to priority groups, such as healthcare workers at hospitals and long-term care facilities.  As manufacturing ramps up in 2021, availability will expand to more groups.  Vaccines are expected to be widely available to the public by late spring.  The State of Nebraska has posted its vaccination plan on the Department of Health and Human services website at


While the vaccine development offers hope, it’s not time to relax our guard.  The coronavirus is still spreading throughout our communities.  In fact, December could be a very challenging month.  As the weather gets colder, Nebraskans will be spending more time indoors.  Typically, viruses spread more easily this time of year as people stay inside.  Over the next several weeks, it will be extremely important to avoid the “Three Cs”.  This means avoiding crowded places, close contacts, and confined spaces.


Christmas season is usually a time to shop for gifts, host parties, and travel to be with family.  Churches and synagogues have special services.  Friends go ice skating or caroling together.  Folks go to the movies to see newly released blockbusters. 


We’ll need to adjust our holiday traditions in 2020 in light of the pandemic.  Consider postponing holiday parties at work or inviting over fewer friends.  Be thoughtful about family get-togethers to protect at-risk family members.


As Nebraskans shop Main Street to support local retailers during the holiday season, it will be especially important to use tools to slow the spread of the virus.  When you go out, wear a mask.  Shop alone instead of taking the kids with you.  Follow the six-foot rule when shopping.  When possible, shop online.   


This isn’t the year to fight through a cold or cough while keeping with your usual routine.  Stay home when sick.  Quarantine immediately if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive or shown symptoms of the coronavirus.  Take advantage of the opportunity for free testing.  Test Nebraska will be in operation during the holiday season.  Go to to fill out a short health assessment and schedule a time to get tested.  In November, Test Nebraska delivered results 24-48 hours after the initial swab.


Nebraska’s coronavirus hospitalizations have stabilized over the past week, but our hospitals continue to care for high numbers of patients.  It’s important that we all take responsibility for slowing the spread of the virus to protect our healthcare system and support our healthcare workers.  As I’ve announced, if Nebraska reaches 25% of staffed hospital beds with coronavirus patients in them, we’ll move into the “red” phase of our pandemic response plan.  If this happens, additional restrictions will take effect to help protect our hospital capacity.  These restrictions include, but are not limited to...


  • Returning to the 10-person rule for indoor gatherings and wedding/funeral receptions.
  • Limiting outdoor gatherings to 25 people.
  • Bars moving to carry-out, delivery, and drive-thru only.
  • Only licensed restaurants offering dine-in services with restricted hours.


Nebraskans should prepare for the possibility of these restrictions taking effect before the end of the year if hospitalizations grow.


If you have questions about Nebraska’s coronavirus phases or vaccination plan, please email or call 402-471-2244.  Progress on the vaccines is reason to hope, but I want to remind everyone that it will still be several months before widespread vaccination can take place.  Until then, it’s critically important for all of us to stay focused on doing what’s right to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.