Successfully Slowing the Spread
By Governor Pete Ricketts
December 7, 2020
Governor’s official photo here.
Nebraskans are known for common sense, tenacity, and grit. When faced with a major challenge, we don’t panic or abandon core principles and long-standing traditions. Instead, we pull together to do what’s best for our communities. Whether it’s a pandemic or historic flooding, Nebraskans have shown the world that we can overcome incredible challenges.
In mid-November, Nebraska’s coronavirus hospitalizations had reached a critical point. With nearly 1,000 coronavirus patients, hospitals across the state were seeing more and more coronavirus patients almost every day. The ever-increasing number of incoming patients was making it tougher for healthcare workers to provide the care they needed.
With mounting hospitalizations, and the possibility of increased spread over Thanksgiving weekend, we called on everyone to step up their efforts to guard against the virus. Thank you to all Nebraskans for working to slow the spread of the virus. It has helped to protect our hospitals and healthcare workers.
Since reaching a high of 987 on November 20th, Nebraska’s coronavirus hospitalizations have decreased by over twenty percent. As of December 7th, Nebraska’s hospitals are caring for 768 coronavirus patients. We remain in the “orange” phase of the State’s pandemic response. At Thanksgiving, we were on the cusp of moving into the “red” phase and adding new restrictions. Thanks to Nebraskans stepping up to slow the spread of the virus, we may now be on a road to relaxed restrictions. Of course, this depends on all of us continuing to take common sense precautions.
To determine the restrictions needed to fight the virus at any given time, we have been using the percentage of staffed hospital beds taken up by coronavirus patients as our primary metric. This helps protect hospital capacity, so we can provide the care people need. If Nebraska ever reaches 25% of hospital beds with coronavirus patients, we’ll immediately go into our “red” phase. Currently, less than 20% of our staffed hospital beds have coronavirus patients in them. If the percentage of coronavirus-related hospitalizations is below the 20% threshold for seven days (rolling average), we’ll enter the “yellow” phase of our pandemic plan and loosen restrictions.
Regardless of which phase we are in, it’s critical that all of us continue to keep practicing good hygiene. As the weather gets colder, people will spend more time indoors. This elevates the risk of transmission. During the winter months, it will be more important than ever for Nebraskans to avoid the “Three Cs.” This means avoiding crowded places, close contacts, and confined spaces. Wash hands often for at least twenty seconds to kill off the virus. Wear a mask when you go to the store. Do your Christmas shopping alone instead of taking the kids with you. Limit the size of holiday gatherings, and be mindful of at-risk loved ones when you make plans to celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and the New Year. All of these common sense steps will help protect hospital capacity.
This month, we expect to receive about 100,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines in Nebraska. Pending federal approval, vaccinations could begin as early as the week of December 13-19. Coronavirus vaccination requires two shots, taken a few weeks apart. Since vaccine supplies are limited, we’re prioritizing healthcare personnel for vaccination. It’s vitally important that those on the frontlines in the fight against the pandemic stay as healthy as possible and that we reduce their chances of spreading this virus. We’re also prioritizing residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to be vaccinated. Older Nebraskans in congregate living settings are at increased risk from the coronavirus, and it’s important to immunize them as quickly as we can. The latest version of the State’s vaccination plan is available at dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/COVID-19-Vaccination-Plan.pdf.
Following CDC guidance, we changed our quarantine rules as of December 3, 2020. Nebraskans who have been in close contact with the virus can now discontinue quarantine after 10 days. If someone in quarantine tests negative for coronavirus, they can stop quarantining even sooner—after 7 days. For this to happen, the test must occur at least 5 days after exposure. Anyone who quarantines, whether for 7 days or 10 days, must wear a mask and monitor themselves for symptoms until 14 days after close contact exposure.
If you have questions about quarantine rules, vaccinations, or the State’s phased pandemic response, please email email@example.com or call 402-471-2244. We’ve seen encouraging hospitalization trends in the past two weeks. Let’s all take personal responsibility to stay healthy and keep Nebraska headed in the right direction.