As the number of COVID-19 cases across the state skyrocketed, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts held a press conference on Monday, Nov. 9 to announce new health measures to combat the virus.
Ricketts kicked off his conference by acknowledging health officials’ concerns about exceeding local hospitals’ capacities.
“We want to make sure we’re stopping the spread of the virus,” Ricketts said. “We’ve seen a big increase in hospitalizations.”
The state set a new record on Sunday, Nov. 8, when 794 Nebraskans were hospitalized with coronavirus. Nebraska has reported 83,969 total cases since the start of the pandemic.
Ricketts intended to respond to this onslaught of infections with the aforementioned new health measures, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
All businesses will be required to assure that their customers will be socially distanced – six feet apart – at all times. If any business personnel have contact closer than six feet with customers that lasts over 15 minutes, masks will be required for these interactions.
Restaurants and bars will still be allowed to offer dine-in options to their customers, but “there will be a maximum of eight people per table, per party.” In addition, these customers will be required to remain seated throughout their time at this venue; if they happen to be up playing a game (as one may at a bar), they will be required to wear a mask.
Furthermore, attendees to extra-curricular activities and events (whether club sports or school-sponsored) will be limited to only one household family.
Churches and other places of worship will be required to adhere to social distancing guidelines that forbid contact closer than a six-feet distance, but they will not have to abide by any occupancy limitations. By contrast, all other indoor gatherings will only be allowed 25% of occupancy (previously 50%), and no more than 10,000 people.
“These include indoor/outdoor arenas, zoos, auditoriums, large event conference rooms, meeting halls, indoor theaters, libraries, swimming pools, and any other confined indoor/outdoor spaces,” according to the measures.
While indoor carnivals and dances are now prohibited under these new measures, dancing will still be allowed at wedding receptions, as long as attendees maintain a six feet distance from one another. The measures listed another requirement for wedding (and funeral) receptions, noting that only eight people may be seated at a table, and there must be six feet of distance between each table. Recitals of any sort are also permitted, so long as they follow the guidelines for indoor gatherings.
Social distancing of six feet must be maintained in gyms, fitness clubs and spas. In businesses such as salons, barbershops, massage therapy offices and tattoo parlors, workers must maintain a distance of six feet from their customers, but it’s also noted that workers and customers must wear masks at all times as well.
“For services provided on the face, the customers will be allowed to remove their mask while receiving those services,” the measures state.
Ricketts stood firm against a statewide mask mandate in this conference, believing that mask mandates had a negative effect on the community as a whole by creating hostility towards the idea of wearing masks. When asked if he would alter his opinion upon being approached by President-Elect Joe Biden on the topic of a mask mandate, Ricketts said he could not be swayed.
“I would not be going along with a mask mandate,” Ricketts said.