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State COVID-19 hospitalizations close to peak reached four months ago
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State COVID-19 hospitalizations close to peak reached four months ago

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Over the past week, the state of Nebraska has seen an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations that is coming close to the May 27 peak, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday. 

On Thursday night, 231 patients were in Nebraska hospitals, said state Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone. The May 27 peak was 232. That number was down to 214 on Monday on the state's dashboard.  

"That's a reminder for all of us that the virus is still here, that it's still in the community, and we still have to take our steps we've talked about," Ricketts said at a Monday morning news conference.

Keeping 6 feet of distance, wearing a mask in closed spaces, washing your hands often, avoiding crowded bars and restaurants. 

The virus is spreading in people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, public health directors say. 

They told the governor about a coffee group of retirees who met, some who tested positive for the virus and then spread it to 12 of their family members, causing the quarantine of some school kids.

"Just because you know somebody doesn't mean they can't give you the virus, right?" Ricketts said. "So we have to be thoughtful about how we're using our social distancing when we're out in public." 

Another example was a wedding that 200 people attended and 30 came down with coronavirus, he said. 

Ricketts said he's been to events where very few people are wearing masks.

State penitentiary COVID-19 cases among staff lead to modified lockdown

"Even for a cocktail hour, I kind of get it, right? It's tough to drink a cocktail if you've got a mask on," he said. "But you can wear your mask, take it off while you sip your drink, put it back on while you're talking."

These are all ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Nebraska and are needed with the increasing numbers of hospitalizations, said Ricketts, who has opposed mask mandates while backing mask use.

Mask mandates are in place in Omaha and Lancaster County.

On Monday, the state reported 44,578 cases so far with 472 deaths. Those numbers rose from 44,063 cases and 470 deaths Sunday.

Locally, health officials reported 52 new cases Monday but no new deaths, according to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. The new cases raised the total number of cases to 6,346 since the pandemic began, while the death toll remained at 24.

To date, the Health Department has documented 2,435 recoveries from COVID-19.

Lancaster County infection rate, local hospitalizations alarming, health official says

On Monday, Lincoln hospitals cared for 62 patients, including 36 from Lancaster County. Eight of the 62 patients needed ventilators.

On Friday, Scott Holmes of the Health Department said the infection rate and number of hospitalizations have reached concerning levels.

Greater spread of the coronavirus in the community was a consequence of outbreaks caused by students who returned to campus and didn't practice social distancing measures when gathering outside of class, Holmes said. 

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced seven new positive tests Monday. The campus now reports 786 positive tests since Aug. 12.

Lincoln Public Schools reported 13 new cases Monday at eight schools: four at Lincoln East High School, two at Lincoln North Star High School and two at Zeman Elementary School and one each at Southeast High School, Goodrich Middle School and Brownell, Lakeview and Norwood Park elementary schools. 

Lancaster County reports 96 new coronavirus cases

Photos: Lincoln in the pandemic era

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

On Twitter @LJSLegislature

Reporter Riley Johnson contributed to this story.

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