Ricketts to employers: Allow staff exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine without documentation
Nebraska’s governor again urged restricted Thanksgiving gatherings
LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts on Wednesday urged Nebraska’s employers to believe employees when they say they’ve been exposed to the virus and allow them to quarantine.
“Employers are asking local public health departments to provide a letter... Don’t ask for those letters,” he said, noting that public health officials have their hands full with other matters and need to prioritize contact tracing.
To help slow the spread of the virus, he said, “allow your people to quarantine. It’s the important thing to do to help slow down the spread of this virus.”
The governor said he has no plans to pursue legal action against any of the cities across the state that have implemented mask ordinances.
Also on Wednesday, Ricketts signed an executive order waiving the open meeting act, allowing public meetings to be held virtually from Dec. 1 to Jan. 31 as long as the public and news media have access. A similar order was signed as the pandemic took hold this spring. He also said that starting next week, he will conduct COVID-19 briefings at 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Ricketts again urged Nebraskans to restrict their Thanksgiving gatherings to 10 people or less and continue getting tested through Test Nebraska.
The governor said he was tested again on Monday, the day he returned from his 14-day quarantine, as an extra precaution and the test came back negative in about 39 hours. The average return of results is about 1.7 days, he said, and Test Nebraska is working to keep those results timely.
Test Nebraska testing sites will be closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday, but Nebraska Incident Commander Angela Ling said that the labs will remain open, so the processing of COVID-19 tests will continue.
Ricketts addressed an issue cited in a report filed this week about COVID-19 testing accessibility.
Test Nebraska sites are positioned close to public transportation to allow for easier access, he said, noting that even those in wheelchairs can be accommodated. The state is also asking long-term care facilities to have staff tested twice a week, but the governor said the state will not compel testing.
The governor said the report also noted that a phone number set up through Access Nebraska was discontinued; he said that it was removed because it wasn’t being widely used.
Ricketts also noted a recent decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state. As of Wednesday, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was reporting that 29% of hospital beds and 29% of ICU beds across the state were available, and 67% of ventilators were available.
Asked about a coding problem affecting hospitals and not allowing them to report COVID-19 patients to the state after 21 days, meaning only COVID-19 patients who were in the hospital for 20 days or less would be reported to state agencies, the governor said the state’s dashboard relies on hospitals to provide accurate information.
“If hospitals are changing their methodology, then we will change our methodology to move that line up,” he said, referring to the number of hospitalizations that would trigger additional restrictions for the entire state, indicated by a red line on the state’s dashboard. “If they’re changing their methodology, then we will change our thresholds.”
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