Take the #TestNebraskaChallenge
By Governor Pete Ricketts
April 23, 2020
Governor’s official photo here.
As we approach the third week of the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” campaign, I urge Nebraskans to continue to practice strict social distancing. Now is not the time to relax our guard. It’s our civic duty to stay committed to our six rules to keep Nebraska healthy:
1. Stay home. No non-essential errands and no social gatherings. Respect the ten-person limit.
2. Socially distance your work. Work from home or use the six-foot rule as much as possible in the workplace.
3. Shop alone and only shop once a week. Do not take family with you.
4. Help kids follow social distancing. Play at home. No group sports. And no playgrounds.
5. Help seniors stay at home by shopping for them. Do not visit long-term care facilities.
6. Exercise daily at home or with an appropriately socially-distanced activity.
Nebraskans have been very conscientious about physically distancing themselves. Data from Google on social mobility in Nebraska shows that we’ve improved in two of the most important categories used to gauge social distancing. Nebraskans are decreasing the amount of time spent in the workplace. Nebraskans are also increasing the numbers of hours they spend in residential areas. This indicates that people are heeding the guidance to stay home.
It's important to remember that social distancing means staying six-feet away from someone else, and avoiding physical contact. While social distancing will need to continue until we have a vaccine, we are taking steps to reopen businesses and organizations that have been temporarily closed.
The first step was announcing that elective surgeries can restart on May 4th. That means you can start seeing your dentist, eye doctor, veterinarian, and other physicians. Hospitals can restart under certain conditions. Hospitals can resume elective surgeries if they maintain 30% general bed availability, 30% ICU bed availability, 30% ventilator availability, AND have a two-week supply of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) in their specific facility. Procedural guidelines for resuming elective procedures will be at the discretion of the hospital or health clinic.
To help us open other pieces of the economy, we are expanding testing. This week, I announced the #TestNebraskaChallenge. We are asking every Nebraskan to go to TestNebraska.com and take a quick, five-minute assessment. This will help us figure out where in the state testing needs to occur, and what your risk level is. Testing under the program will begin in about ten days, and will help us better identify cases and who needs to be quarantined.
As we look forward to May, Nebraskans should be prepared for a phased approach to ease our social distancing restrictions. We’re not going to lift restrictions across the board, all at once. We’ll evaluate the state by region, and gradually make data-informed changes as conditions allow. I’m having ongoing conversations with our state’s mayors, industry associations, hospital leaders, public health departments, and others. Input from these constituencies and communities will play a big role in the decisions we make in the weeks ahead.
At this time, it’s especially valuable for our team to hear from businesses and non-profits about how they’re navigating the pandemic. The State has partnered with the University of Nebraska System and our state chambers of commerce to develop a survey on the business response to coronavirus. The survey is now live at cpar.unomaha.edu/nebusinessresponse. I encourage all business owners and non-profit leaders to complete this survey as soon as possible. It will provide us with valuable insight into your needs as we work to restore growth here in the Cornhusker State.
While I’m confident that Nebraska will emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever, I also recognize that many Nebraskans are experiencing hardship as a result of the coronavirus. As our citizens stay home and stay healthy, I also encourage them to stay connected. If you’re feeling depressed or angry, don’t suffer in isolation. Reach out to a friend, family member, or neighbor. In times of crisis, togetherness is what makes us tough. We need one another for encouragement and support. I want to remind all Nebraskans that we have hotlines available for you. Please dial them if you need help:
- Nebraska Family Helpline: 1-888-866-8660
- Nebraska Rural Response Hotline: 1-800-464-0258
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273- 8255)
In the coming weeks, we will have more announcements about how Nebraska will be reopening temporarily closed businesses. To stay up to date on the latest information, please visit www.Governor.Nebraska.gov and subscribe to the coronavirus updates. You can also visit dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus for more information. Additionally, Nebraskans should watch the latest news from their local health department (LHD). Go to dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Local-Health-Departments.aspx to find the website and contact information of the LHD in your area.
We’re winning the war on the virus, but it’s far from over. I ask for your continued cooperation as we combat coronavirus and make plans to get our economy fully growing again.