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Ricketts says he's prepared to enact 'more restrictive measures' as numbers climb
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Ricketts says he's prepared to enact 'more restrictive measures' as numbers climb

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Gov. Pete Ricketts has sounded the alarm about the increased spread of the coronavirus in Nebraska with a warning that "the situation in our hospitals is very serious" now.

Ricketts said he is prepared to respond with "more restrictive measures" to govern interaction if the growth in cases continues, although he continued to resist a mandate that would require people to wear masks.

However, in response to a question at a virtual Capitol news conference on Thursday, the governor said that an array of options such as economic or business shutdowns or some kind of restrictions on public interaction are "on the table."

"The coronavirus not only continues to spread in Nebraska, it has picked up steam," he wrote earlier in his weekly column and accompanied that with a warning on Twitter.

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"So far, we have been able to provide hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators to anyone who needs care," he tweeted. "If trends continue, Nebraska will reach a point where that's no longer possible."

"If we don't bend this curve down, we will take additional restrictive measures," he said during his news conference.

"The pandemic is getting worse in Nebraska," the governor said, and it is "spreading all across the state."

Instead of what used to be 200 hospitalizations, there are now 885, he said. 

Actually, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported 905 hospitalizations Thursday as the state was hit with another heavy load of new cases.

There were 2,611 new cases reported Thursday, raising the total to 92,553. The death count now stands at 756.

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Ricketts urged Nebraskans to have "very, very small gatherings" during the Thanksgiving holiday this month, instead of large family events.

"We hope to have a vaccine in December," the governor said, with distribution already targeted first to health care workers, first responders and people most at risk.

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In preparation for that, Dr. Gary Anthone, the state's chief medical officer, urged Nebraskans to get this season's flu shots now.

While he continues to resist a mask mandate, Ricketts said "you really need to be wearing a mask when you go to the store" or at public gatherings and in confined spaces.

"I believe masks work," he said.

Ricketts institutes additional measures to fight COVID-19

Ricketts said there's an urgent need now "for all of us to take personal responsibility for slowing the spread by using the tools we have to protect our health care system."

"It's critical that each person reduce their mobility and contact with others," he said.

Ricketts, who has resisted a mandate directing Nebraskans to wear masks in public settings and in crowded situations, urged in his column: "Keep 6 feet of distance from others. Wear a mask. Wash your hands often for 20 seconds at a time."

In addition, he said, "when possible, work remotely. Shop once a week and go alone rather than taking the kids with you. Stay at home when sick."

Gov. Pete Ricketts, first lady quarantining after close contact with someone positive for COVID-19

Avoid crowded places, close contacts and confined spaces, Ricketts said.

Ricketts and first lady Susanne Shore are in quarantine through Nov. 22 after possible exposure to COVID-19 during a small outdoor dinner gathering at their home this past weekend.

So far, the governor said during Thursday's news conference, neither of them is experiencing any symptoms.

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Photos: The scene in Lincoln with much of city shut down

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

On Twitter @LJSdon

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