Nebraska COVID-19 restrictions could loosen Saturday

Some COVID-19 restrictions in Nebraska could be loosened this weekend.

During a coronavirus update on Friday, Governor Pete Ricketts said he may further loosen some the restrictions as early as Saturday if Nebraska’s COVID-19 hospitalizations stay at 20% or lower for a seventh consecutive day.

That seventh day starts at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and could prompt Nebraska to move into the “yellow zone,” which would allow for some elective surgeries to resume and allow an indoor capacity to move from 25% to 50%. It would also lift restrictions on extracurricular activities, and most change most current restrictions — like the 6-foot social distancing rule and the requirement to wear masks when that distancing isn’t possible — to recommendations.

Events with more than 500 people would still need to get approval, he said. The governor said he still encourages people to take precautions like avoiding confined spaces, close contacts and crowded places. “We’re telling people to continue to practice all the tools,” he said during Friday’s news conference. “We are loosening up some of the restrictions, but we still have restrictions in place. And again, this is all about managing our hospital capacity, which is what loosening the restrictions is all about.”

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, protecting Nebraska’s hospitals has been the ‘north star’ guiding our strategic response to the coronavirus,” said Gov. Ricketts. “Coronavirus hospitalizations have decreased from where they were three weeks ago. As a result, we’re updating the State’s DHMs in keeping with our pandemic plan. The virus is still present in our communities, and we all need to continue using the tools we have to slow its spread. I especially urge Nebraskans to be mindful of at-risk loved ones when making plans to celebrate the holidays. Let’s all take personal responsibility to stay healthy and keep Nebraska headed in the right direction.”

Moving from the “orange” to “yellow” phase involves the following DHM changes:

  • Fan attendance at extracurricular activities—both school and club—is no longer limited to household members of participants.
  • Parties at restaurants and bars remain limited to groups of 8 or less. Individuals must still be seated unless ordering food, using the restroom, or playing games. Six feet of separation between groups returns to a guidance.
  • The maximum capacity for indoor gatherings goes from 25% to 50%.
    • Only certain venues where people convene are considered “gatherings” under the State’s DHMs. Go to and click on “Directed Health Measures” for details.
  • Masks are recommended, rather than required, for establishments such as childcare centers, salons, barber shops, massage therapists, and body art studios.
  • Elective surgeries can resume as long as a hospital keeps 10% of its capacity available to treat coronavirus patients.

Nebraska has always used the state’s hospital bed capacity, not COVID-19 deaths, to guide response decisions. “It’s a virus,” Ricketts said. “You cannot stop it from coming.”

The state is expecting its first allotment of the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive sometime next week but hasn’t yet confirmed details about the second shipment.

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