Governor Ricketts Press Conference April 1 2020

Kathy Siefken, Executive Director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, center, speaks at the Governor's press conference today (April 1, 2020). Also pictured is the sign language interpreter for the press conferences, left, and Governor Pete Ricketts.

Speaking at today's 2 p.m. press conference (Wednesday, April 1, 2020) in addition to the governor were Mark Quandahl, Director of Nebraska Dept. of Banking and Finance, and Kathy Sifken, Executive Director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association.

Highlights from the press conference include:

• Two Directed Health Care Measures (DHM) were issued yesterday (March 31, 2020) for Adams, Clay, Nuckolls, and Webster counties and Buffalo, Dawson, Franklin, Gosper, Harlan, Kearney, and Phelps counties and are in effect until May 11 unless renewed.

• A DHM is being worked on for the following counties: Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce, and Rock county

• Counties already under DHMs include Cass, Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge, Lancaster, Saunders, Washington, Butler, Hall, Hamilton, Merrick, Polk, Seward, York, Burt, Cuming, Madison, Stanton, Banner, Box Butte, Cheyenne, Dawes, Deuel, Garden, Grant, Kimball, Morrill, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan, and Sioux counties.

• On-line notary will be available as soon as the Secretary of State can implement it.

• Quandahl said deadlines and other requirements for audits and banking have been relaxed however, there is no relaxation on standards.

• In addition to recommendation to follow the existing social distancing guidelines, Siefken gave the following guidelines for grocery shopping:

  • If the parking lot is full, go home and come back when less people are present.
  • Shop alone, do not make it a group or family outing.
  • Plan your trip and shop once a week, not daily.
  • Shop with your eyes and touch only the products you are purchasing.
  • If ill, stay at home and get someone else to shop for you.
  • It’s stressful for everyone, be nice.
  • Do not take reusable bags or backpacks into the stores.
  • Do not stockpile, leave products for your neighbors.

“If customers don’t follow the guidelines, steps will be taken,” Siefken said. “Do what needs to be done so other people don’t have to decide for you. Responsibility is everyone’s job.”

•Siefken told shoppers to be aware that, as shelves are stocked in grocery stores, that items will be available, but perhaps not in the form or packaging customers are familiar with. For example, toilet paper is being manufactured in jumbo rolls because it’s more efficient and faster. There will be product, however, the selection may not be as varied as what customers are used to.

• Governor Ricketts said if you have spare masks, please consider donating them to local hospitals, clinics, fire departments, EMS department and other facilities.

• The governor asked landlords to work with both renters and financial institutions and to not evict renters if they are impacted by COVID-19.

• Last week it was announced Blue Cross Blue Shield would be reimbursing medical providers for tele-health appointments at the same rate as in-person appointments. Today Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone said United Healthcare and Meidca are offering tele-health reimbursement but not at the same rate as in-person reimbursement.

• Testing capacity for COVID-19 in Nebraska is increasing by about 50 tests a day.

• There are posts that state Gov. Ricketts is telling students they will have to repeat grades for the 2019-2020 school year. “That is not true,” Ricketts said. The posts are wrong. It may be an April Fool’s Day joke. Students will not have to repeat grades because the in-classroom school year ended early.

• Nebraska Corrections Officer Scott Frakes is working on plans on how best to protect and treat inmates. Visiting to correctional facilities is shutdown. Employees are being educated to make sure the coronavirus is not brought into correctional facilities.

• Dr. Anthone spoke about the moving of patients from Carter House, an assisted living facility in Blair, to other health care facilities when COVID-19 was confirmed there.

• Dorm rooms at UNO, UNL and UNK are most likely going to be transitioned into recovery and quarantine rooms, however, the governor said they will wait until the plan is in place before discussing details.

• Dr. Anthone said stated over 90 percent of patients with COVID-19 in Nebraska are self-quarantining at home.

• The governor stated that if a store is not following social distancing guidelines, contact your mayor or chief of police who should then contact the store manager or owner. If guidelines are still not followed, the mayor or chief of police should contact the governor’s office. “We’re all in this together,” Ricketts said. “Most people do the right thing. We at the state can take further steps, but the first step is to talk to them and get voluntary compliance.”

• The governor reiterated that people who come into Nebraska from out-of-state or out-of-country are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. This includes hunters, returning snowbirds, etc. It doesn’t include those who routinely travel for their job, such as driving from Omaha to Council Bluffs for work, and it doesn’t include truckers.

• The governor is not considering a state-wide Stay-At-Home policy. “We’re not planning on doing that,” he said, saying that Nebraska took steps earlier in the process than other states. The plan, he explained, does not include a mandated Stay-At-Home policy and if there voluntary compliance with social distancing and limits on group size, it will not be necessary.

Ricketts said Nebraskans are paying attention however, “We’ve got to do better…We will be in this for the entire month of April.” He said the peak of cases in Nebraska could happen anywhere from mid-April to the first part of May. “We need to draw it out so it’s not overwhelming hospitals,” he said.

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