The governor was ready for questions from constituents Thursday night at an NET News town hall.
And Nebraskans had them.
For an hour, Gov. Pete Ricketts responded to queries about the impact of coronavirus on the state — separated by a safe 6 feet from Gary Anthone, chief medical officer for Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services, and Matthew Blomstedt, Nebraska commissioner of education.
The trio fielded questions from across the state, ranging from the availability of testing to the economic impact of COVID-19 to broadband access in rural Nebraska during the pandemic.
* Testing disadvantage: “There’s no governor in the country that feels like they have enough tests,” the governor said. The state now runs 400 tests a day, more at hospitals and private labs.
* Will Nebraska’s peak be similar to the national peak? “We’ve definitely not hit our peak yet,” Anthone said. “We’ve only had linear growth so far.” (Anthone guessed the state’s peak was one to two weeks away.)
* Did Ricketts agree with President Trump that the country will be up and running by Easter? “I think the most important thing to remember is that the nation and the state are not going to experience this at the same rate … we’re really looking at how we are regionalizing how we’re responding here in Nebraska.”
* Economic impacts: “We will look at all the things that can help support getting our economy back on track after what will certainly be a hard hit for a lot of people. … The priority right now is still slowing the spread of the virus here in the state,” Ricketts said.
* How are we helping those who don’t have a place to quarantine, such as the homeless. “We have a team in place, stay tuned as we have those announcements.”
* What can be done about rural broadband, which is needed for work and health information and for students? “Some push to put hot spots in the hands of students who don’t have them,” Blomstedt. “I am concerned because we have areas that struggle that way.”
* There were 15,668 unemployment claims in Nebraska filed as of Thursday: “Ironically, the thing we were talking about right up until the moment this coronavirus struck was we don’t have enough people in Nebraska to take all the jobs we got … I’m encouraging employers to hang on to these people … try to hold onto these people at least part time.”
* Are we planning shelter in place? “We don’t have to do that because we’ve limited that in places like restaurants and bars. We’ve limited that to 10 people in other businesses. That’s going to be sufficient to limit the spread of the virus — by itself it’s not enough; we have to do that other things I talked about.”
* Why are driver's license offices still open? Anyone 65 or older doesn’t have to come in to get their driver’s license renewed, Ricketts said. “It’s not about shutting things down, folks, it’s about limiting the size of crowds.”
* If we had Medicaid expansion, wouldn’t that make it easier for low-income people to get treatment? “Everyone’s going to get tested and get the treatment they need in Nebraska, so that’s not an issue.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.