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Nebraska hospitals lessen COVID bed requirements
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Nebraska hospitals lessen COVID bed requirements

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Majority of coronavirus deaths in Nebraska at nursing homes

Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, May 1, 2020. Expanded testing for COVID-19 will start on Monday in Omaha and Grand Island. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Nebraska hospitals are stable enough to reduce the requirements for reserving beds and ventilators to serve COVID-19 patients, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday. 

He has been keeping watch on the hospital bed capacity in Omaha as the number of COVID-19 cases there has increased. As of Monday, Douglas County had 4,412 confirmed cases of the virus, with about 13.6% of tests positive the week ending Saturday. That is 1,129 positive out of 8,326 tests. 

Ricketts has always said the status of the health care system would be the measure for lifting restrictions. 

"The hospital system in Nebraska continues to be very stable," he said. 

Forty-five percent of general hospital beds are available in the state, he said, with 49% of intensive care beds and 77% of ventilator beds. 

Douglas County hospital occupancy of beds is recovering, he said, with 30% of available ICU beds. In the past 2-3 weeks, capacity has remained stable there. About 10 days ago, fewer than 20% of Omaha-area intensive care unit beds were reported to be available.

Beginning Monday through the month of June, elective surgeries and procedures are allowed as long as hospitals maintain general and intensive care bed capacity and ventilator capacity at 15% for nonelective care of patients. Prior to Monday, that capacity was 30% for nonelective care. 

"We believe that is something that we can do that is manageable within the current system," Ricketts said. 

Some concern has been raised about demonstrators gathering in large groups over the weekend to protest. That could continue this week. 

Bob Ravenscroft, vice president of advancement for Bryan Health, said that from protest footage he saw, it looked like the “vast majority” of protesters were wearing masks.

“Seeing all those masks was very gratifying,” he said.

However, Ravenscroft said there were still a number of people not wearing masks, which he called “absolutely concerning.”

Since it can take up to two weeks for people to get sick, “That’ll be something that we obviously have to watch over the next few weeks,” he said.

Lancaster County reported 16 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the community total to 1,228. 

The state has recorded 14,345 cases, with 173 deaths, at least one of those a newly reported death in Dawson County.

Two staff members at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the number of prison staff diagnosed to 14. 

Bryan, CHI Health relax visitor restrictions

Both employees are isolating at home, according to state prisons Director Scott Frakes. 

Also Sunday, a third Douglas County Corrections employee tested positive, with all of them recovering at home, said Director Mike Myers. Two other officers who contracted the virus have recovered and returned to work.

Myers said the new case appears to have been contracted in the community and isn't related to the earlier cases.

Test Nebraska this week will be in Lincoln, Omaha, Bellevue, Chadron, Alliance, Broken Bow, Scottsbluff, Sidney, Burwell, St. Paul, Valentine, O'Neill, Norfolk, Columbus, York and Fremont.

Latest updates on coronavirus in Lincoln and nearby

See the latest news as more coronavirus cases are identified in Nebraska.

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More than 3,000 high school seniors in Lincoln are graduating into a world nobody’s navigated before, staring into a pandemic that has closed schools, slashed families’ economic security and, for many graduates, changed their college plans.

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At middle and high schools across the city, teachers made signs and hung decorations and put on costumes and played music to help students note the end of a school year where dining room tables and bedroom desks became the classroom.

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This year would have marked the 153rd annual community Fourth of July celebration in Seward, which first put on an event in the local town square in 1868.

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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson are taking the lead on the coalition. The letter is also signed by attorneys general in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature

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