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Ricketts eyes resources for hospitals as COVID cases rise
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Ricketts eyes resources for hospitals as COVID cases rise

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Anti-Gambling, 10.5

Gov. Pete Ricketts puts on a mask during a news conference regarding casino gambling on Oct. 5 at the state Capitol. 

Gov. Pete Ricketts said Wednesday the state is "looking at how we can provide additional resources to hospitals" as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in the state.

Hospitalizations reached a new high of 315 patients Tuesday. They were at 311 Wednesday night, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services dashboard. 

There were 924 new coronavirus cases reported Wednesday, bringing the state total to 54,467. With three deaths Wednesday, the number of COVID-related deaths rose to 530.

Lancaster County reported 58 hospitalizations, including 30 residents of the county.

Ricketts said he will be in conversation with the University of Nebraska Medical Center and hospitals to "determine what their needs are" while continuing to monitor and evaluate the challenge.

Earlier this month, UNMC scientists and physicians warned that the state is entering "a dangerous period" in the pandemic with record numbers of new cases and hospitalization.

Lincoln hospitals say they have no capacity issues

"It is a potential perfect storm," they wrote in a statement released at a news conference in Omaha.

Although the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department remains concerned about the number of new cases, rate of transmission and number of hospitalizations, officials stress that Lincoln hospitals continue to have the capacity to treat new COVID patients and others needing in-patient care.

Coronavirus cases increased by 94 in Lancaster County on Wednesday, but local health officials didn't report any new virus-related deaths. The pandemic case total rose to 7,714, including 3,380 documented recoveries.

In other COVID-related remarks, Ricketts said at a news conference that White House health care officials with whom he has recently spoken have made no mention indicating they are embracing a so-called "herd immunity" policy of dealing with the virus.

National news reports suggest that the theory of allowing the virus to spread freely among healthy young people while keeping the economy functioning has gained some support in the Trump administration.

In his recent phone conversation with White House officials, including coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, the governor said "no such policy" was mentioned.

"We continue to work on how to mitigate spread of the virus," Ricketts said.

In answer to a question, the governor said he believes "we can manage Halloween" this year with some adjustments that limit interaction and provide protections while still observing the traditional holiday.

Answering a question prompted by the recent arrest of a number of men charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in retaliation for her efforts to fight the coronavirus, Ricketts said there have been "no threats to me" and he believes he is securely protected by the Nebraska State Patrol.

Ricketts called the news conference to spotlight state government's new Center of Operational Excellence and the improved delivery of state services that he has instituted as governor.

The changes have provided "a better customer experience for taxpayers" as they deal with state government, he said.

"Over the last several years, we've seen great success running state government more like a business," the governor stated in a new weekly column that coincided with the news conference. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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