Gov. Ricketts announces DHM rollbacks; limits indoor venue capacities

Directed health measures in Nebraska are taking a step back from Phase 4 to Phase 3 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state.

On Friday, Governor Pete Ricketts and public health leaders held an update on the state’s COVID-19 response.

“We have entered a dangerous phase of the pandemic for Nebraska," Dr. James Lawler of UNMC said during the press conference. The case numbers in communities have reached excess of the virus’s previous peak in May. “Unfortunately we are still accelerating in the number of cases per day," he explained. Earlier, the pandemic was centered mostly around the Omaha area and Lincoln along with communities with meatpacking plants and congregant settings.

Now, the pandemic has become widespread, becoming more active in rural areas, with positivity rates of infection higher than in New York City during its peak of the pandemic in April, Lawler said. “We are at risk of our health systems becoming overwhelmed,” he added. Those who frequented restaurants without masks had seven to 10 times increased risk of becoming infected, Lawler explained.

“Wear that mask," Ricketts said, adding that it has pained him to put in place restrictions on personal liberties but it has been necessary. “I know that everybody is tired of the pandemic. Tired of wearing masks, they want to meet with people, but we still have the virus in our community,” Ricketts said.

The governor also announced a new directed health measure with the following enforceable restrictions, many in line with Phase 3 restrictions. The DHM covers the following:

Elective procedures/surgeries

  • In order to continue elective procedures, hospitals must maintain at least 10 percent of their general and ICU beds as reserve capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.
  • Hospitals must continue to accept and treat COVID-19 patients and must not transfer COVID-19 patients to create capacity for elective procedures.

Bars & restaurants

  • Patrons will be required to be seated while on-premise unless they are placing an order, using the restroom, or playing games.
  • 100 percent of rated occupancy continues.
  • A maximum of eight individuals in a party, while groups larger than eight will need to sit at multiple tables.


  • Indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 percent of rated occupancy not to exceed 10,000.
  • Outdoor gatherings will remain at 100 percent of rated occupancy not to exceed 10,000.
  • Gatherings include but are not limited to indoor or outdoor arenas, indoor or outdoor auctions, stadiums, tracks, fairgrounds, festivals, zoos, auditoriums, large event conference rooms, meeting halls, indoor theaters, libraries, swimming pools, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.
  • Groups shall be no larger than eight individuals.
  • Plans for reopening or expanding to new capacity limits must be submitted to the local health departments and approved for all indoor and outdoor locations/venues that hold 500 or more individuals (1,000 or more in counties over 500,000 population) before reopening is permitted.
    • The reopening plan must contain a planned number of guests, how the location will meet social distancing guidelines, and sanitation guidelines.

Wedding & funeral reception venues

  • Maximum of eight individuals in a party while groups larger than eight must sit apart.
  • 100 percent of rated occupancy continues.
  • Limited dances or other social events requiring guests to gather outside of their respective tables in guidance.