Gov Ricketts Joined by Grocery, Restaurant & Daycare Representatives to Provide COVID-19 Update

LINCOLN – Governor Pete Ricketts provided a general update to the COVID-19 situation in Nebraska in a press conference from the capital this afternoon.

Governor Ricketts announced at the beginning of the press conference that Douglas county now has a second case of community acquired COVID-19. Further details will come out this afternoon from the Douglas County Health Department, in their press conference scheduled for 4:15PM.

Because of this new case, the previously discussed “community spread” triggered limitations on bars & restaurants will be placed into effect. All Douglas County restaurants will now have to go to takeout, delivery, or pickup only. Bars will have to close. More information will be available at the 4:15PM conference.

The governor mentioned the possibility of a a statewide directed health measure to apply specific restrictions, applied by region/ESU. School closure information will come out with that directed health measure for schools that are not already closed.

Governor Ricketts again stressed that 10-person limitation for social and public gatherings, and the importance of keeping 6 feet of space between yourself and others while working or in one of those public places.

Kathy Siefken from the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association also spoke at this afternoon’s press conference. Her main message was clear: “We have plenty of food to feed everyone. The supply chain is stable.” Siefken implored people to stop overbuying – a two week supply is adequate. Shortage on the shelf have been caused by individuals overbuying, but manufactures are producing at 120% of normal levels to meet demand. “Everyone will have access to food,” Siefken stressed.

The Nebraska Grocery Association made the following recommendations today:

  1. Do not overbuy. A two week supply is adequate.
  2. Designate one shopper per family.
  3. Keep that 6 foot “social distance” in the store, and step back away from cashiers as much as possible.
  4. Do not bring reusable bags at this time, as the soft materials used in those reusable bags can bring contamination into the stores.
  5. Please shop for your at-risk family and friends.

Siefken mentioned that many businesses are considering reserving the first hour of business for the elderly and at-risk. “You don’t have to wait for stores to institute rules,” she said. “[If you’re healthy,] let the elderly and at-risk shop in the first hour of business.”

The third speaker was Zoe Olson from Nebraska’s Restaurant Association, who reminded Nebraskans to continue to support the takeout and delivery available at their local restaurants. Olson mentioned a popular idea that’s been circulating on social media: Purchasing gift cards from small, locally owned restaurants now and reserving them for later use. This could help many businesses with their cash flow in the immediate crisis.

Theresa Thibodeau, the owner of a daycare called Primrose School, spoke on behalf of the state’s daycare association. “It is going to be hard to follow the 10 child per classroom rule, but it is critical to mitigating the spread,” she said.

At this time, parents of children in daycare are asked to explore work-at-home opportunities so they can keep their children home. This will allow healthcare workers, police, fire, military and other “essential services” workers to utilize our daycares under these limitations.

Daycares are encouraged to perform their sanitizing procedures hourly. “Make sure the children are washing their hands,” Thibodeau reminded. She also encouraged that daycare providers consider checking children for fevers as they’re dropped off. “Do not let a child in your facility if they have a fever,” Thibodeau urged, stressing that providers and daycare teachers must also monitor their own health during this time. “Please stay home if you’re sick.”

The state is working daily to expand testing capabilities, including drive through testing, to continue to diagnose and contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Ricketts also stressed that he is not considering restricting non-public facing businesses in the same way as bars & restaurants have been restricted. “The general public isn’t going in and out of offices,” he said. Ricketts wants to minimize the disruption to businesses as much as possible. “We want people to be working,” he said.

A press conference with the Douglas County Health Department is slated for 4:15PM today.