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Ricketts nixes new COVID-19 restrictions in advance of Thanksgiving
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Ricketts nixes new COVID-19 restrictions in advance of Thanksgiving

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With COVID-19 hospitalization rates in Nebraska stabilizing during the last few days, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Wednesday that he will not institute new directed health measure restrictions leading into the Thanksgiving holiday.

"We will stick with the methodology that we've put out there," Ricketts said during a Capitol news briefing, referring to his earlier decision to add restrictions only if or when the number of COVID-19 patients reached 25 percent of hospitalizations.

As he spoke, state coronavirus dashboard figures showed COVID-19 patients occupying 936 of 4,116 staffed hospital beds. That figure would be 93 patients short of reaching the 25 percent figure.

"There has been a little bit of a slowdown of positive cases" along with a slowdown of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Dr. Gary Anthone, the state's chief medical officer, said. 

"That's probably one way to show our efforts are working," he said.

Ricketts said he will continue to adhere to his overall policy of protecting hospital capacity as the state continues to battle the virus. 

Recent success in beginning to slow the pace of COVID-19 hospitalizations will be strongly tested during the Thanksgiving weekend, a holiday traditionally celebrated with family gatherings.

If COVID-19 hospitalizations subsequently spike and reach the 25 percent threshold, the governor's pending new directed health care measures will limit the authorized size of indoor gatherings to 10 persons and outdoor gatherings to 25 persons while restoring earlier limitations on bars to take-out and drive-thru service.

Ricketts once again rejected calls for a statewide mandate for Nebraskans to wear masks as the number of local jurisdictions enacting mask mandates continued to rise.

"We will continue to follow our policy," the governor said, which is based largely on encouraging Nebraskans to wear masks when shopping or in crowded or confined conditions.

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"We will continue to manage around hospitalizations," he said.

In answer to questions, Ricketts said a COVID-19 vaccine will not generally be available to the public until April although early shipments of vaccine hopefully will be provided to hospital and health care workers and long-term care workers as early as next month.

Early shipments might become available as early as Dec. 12, he said.

"We will need to continue (state-mandated) rules through the next several months," the governor said.

Ricketts said he plans to return to a routine schedule of coronavirus news conferences, with briefings scheduled next Monday, Wednesday and Friday, beginning at 10 a.m. 

Slew of Nebraska cities pass mask mandates in the past two days
Surge of COVID-19 cases affecting Lincoln's skilled nursing facilities
Gap in COVID-19 testing, services leaving behind Nebraskans with disabilities, report finds
Gage County sheriff discusses personal battle with COVID-19
City Hall: Pandemic policy touches everyone, including Lincoln mayor's family

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

On Twitter @LJSdon

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