Lancaster County bars can only offer alcohol takeout beginning Wednesday as part of a new directed health measure that also restricts operations at restaurants and gyms.
Restaurants and bars selling food can operate their dining rooms until 8:45 p.m., and then they must switch to takeout service after 9 o'clock, Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department Director Pat Lopez said.
Gyms must reduce their capacity to 25%, not including employees, ensure social distancing and prohibit indoor team activities such as basketball and volleyball, she said.
Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25 people, Lopez said, but with exceptions for schools, stores and offices.
Tighter restrictions announced Tuesday last until Dec. 18 and come as the county reported three new coronavirus deaths, 226 new cases and 164 COVID-19 patients stressing Lincoln hospitals.
The new deaths raised the local pandemic death toll to 73.
Though the Health Department had incrementally imposed new restrictions in the last few weeks, Lopez and Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said the local coronavirus data had not shown enough progress or that the rampant spread had peaked.
"What should be clear to everyone by this point is that our situation is critical," Gaylor Baird said just before the new measures were announced.
The mayor said she wished the situation were different, but the coronavirus numbers show further action must be taken to slow the spread.
Downtown bar Duffy's Tavern announced Monday morning it was temporarily shutting down until the situation dies down and said "maybe if we all take this seriously we can get to a point where our businesses can be open and people (again) have jobs. It didn’t have to be like this."
On social media, the bar blamed Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts for a lack of leadership.
The governor recently made federal coronavirus stimulus funds available in a second round of grants for bars and entertainment venues, and those disbursements are forthcoming.
The heightened restrictions kick in on the day before Thanksgiving, a day that typically draws people out to bars and restaurants.
Some bar owners have called for additional city support as they fear another shutdown imperils their ability to survive financially, and Gaylor Baird said the city will continue to advocate for state and federal funding and will assess its own ability to support these businesses.
During her news conference, the mayor said anyone in need of housing or rental assistance in the coming weeks should contact the city, which has a $2 million housing assistance fund aimed at providing coronavirus relief.
Lopez said the new restrictions did not change the Health Department's view that in-person learning at schools in the county remains safe, but she added that her department will act if that changes.
The suspension of youth sports through Dec. 7 continues, but health officials will reevaluate it, Lopez said. High school basketball, wrestling and swim teams in Lancaster County are the only varsity teams in the state sidelined by coronavirus restrictions.
The health directives in Lancaster County have not covered collegiate sports because of the coronavirus-specific protocols adopted by those teams and their conferences, Lopez said during the news briefing.
However, all large events remain postponed under the restrictions, and a mask mandate remains in place.
Community residents need to take more action collectively to reverse the situation, she said, and both the mayor and health director encouraged people to celebrate Thanksgiving differently this year.
The limit on indoor gatherings doesn't apply to homes, but health officials say they hope people model their behavior off Health Department guidance and with care for the serious situation the county remains in, Lopez said.
These new measures will help if residents faithfully adopt them while avoiding crowds, confined spaces and close contact, Gaylor Baird said.
"We can do this," she said. "We do hard things."
PHOTOS DURING THE PANDEMIC IN LINCOLN
Photos: The scene in Lincoln with much of city shut down
City Council distancing
Gameday empty Saturday
Thank you Bryan West
No fans allowed
Volleyball social distancing
Boo at the Zoo
Downtown mask art
Marching band competition
East Campus proposed budget cuts
No Football Saturday
UNL in-person class
Farmers Market influencers
Weeping Water vs. Fillmore Central/Exeter-Milligan
First day of middle school
First day of school
Pius X volleyball practice
City Council BLM protest
Rally and hearing
Lancaster County Super Fair
LPS board meeting
Meatpacking workers rally
Lincoln Northeast graduation
Gov. Ricketts address Legislature
Masked Archie the Mammoth
First Jury Trial in Four Months
Lincoln Community Playhouse
The Kindler Hotel
Garth Brooks Drive-In Concert
Urban Air Adventure Park
Gere Branch Library
Music on the Move
Bars Opening in Lincoln
LPS Teachers Retirement
Holmes Lake Manor Horse Visit
Lancaster County Courthouse
Church Social Distancing
Children of Smithfield
Parkview Christian Teacher Appreciation Day
Lincoln Christian 2020 Seniors
Test Nebraska site
Drive-Thru Career Fair
Center for People in Need food distribution
Masks For Truckers
Teacher and Staff Parade
Virtual City Council
Good Friday Music
Masks on a walk
Watch: A timelapse of the mural at Saro Cider
Watch: Hand sanitizer rolls off Innovation Campus assembly line
No fun here
Tower Square sign
WATCH: Celebrating a birthday with a parade
Simpsons in the windows
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing
UNL Beekeeping virtual class
Lincoln Lutheran Online Teaching
Blue for public health
Basketball without fans
Thanksgiving to go
Socially distant Santa
Christmas tree demand
Basketball fans reduced
Mike Hilgers at Legislature's First Day
Zoo Bar membership
New high school
Biking in snow
Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.