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Nebraska COVID-19 hospitalizations drop below 500

Gov. Pete Ricketts gives an update on Nebraska's COVID-19 response during a news conference...
Gov. Pete Ricketts gives an update on Nebraska's COVID-19 response during a news conference Friday morning, Jan. 8, 2021.
Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 9:23 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - In his update on Nebraska’s COVID-19 response Friday, Gov. Pete Ricketts reported the state’s hospitalizations had fallen below 500 for the first time since October.

The state has remained focused on maintaining hospital capacity during the pandemic, and the governor thanked Nebraskans for doing their part to slow the spread of the virus.

“But we need to continue to remain vigilant,” he said.

The governor reported 30% of the state’s hospital beds, 30% of its ICU beds, and 74% of ventilators were available.

Ricketts reminded Nebraskans about the new COVID-19 virus strain that is more easily transmitted.

“It’s in a number of states,” he said.

Ricketts encouraged Nebraskans to continue following the “three Cs” and keep their distance from others, wear masks when that isn’t possible or when they go to stores, work from home when possible, and stay home when they’re sick.

The governor encouraged signing up for a test as a means of controlling the spread, noting that Test Nebraska has 60 sites set up across the state.

“I want more testing. I want more people to be tested,” Ricketts said. Studies indicate about half of infections come from people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, so he encourages people to get tested ahead of any travel or planned visits.

“And we’ve been turning those test results around in the last few weeks in 24 hours or less,” Ricketts said, noting that Test Nebraska makes it easier to get tested here than it is in a lot of other states. “Please go out and use it. ... We don’t require a doctor’s note. We don’t require you to show an insurance card. You can just sign up and go, so I want more people to go.”

Test Nebraska has delivered 592,000 of the state’s 1.825 million COVID-19 test results, the governor said.

The governor was asked about the elevated number of COVID-19 deaths — more than 100 — reported in the state yesterday. He said 92 deaths reported yesterday were in Douglas County, and the state is still “digging into” why there were so many reported here at once.

A spokesman with the Douglas County Health Department told 6 News on Friday that “human error” caused the spike as a list of deaths from the state of people who had at one time tested positive for COVID-19 attributed the virus as a cause of death when it wasn’t.

Ricketts said the state had received about 40,000 more vaccinations in the last couple of days and are working to get them scheduled for administration. The state’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard on Friday morning was showing 133,896 vaccinations had been distributed to the state, and 60,170 had been administered, some of which the governor said were second doses.

He urged patience and assured that the vaccinations would be getting out, particularly once the pharmacy program “gets kicked into gear here.”

Ricketts said the COVID-19 vaccination process doesn’t at all compare to the distribution of the flu vaccine. He addressed concerns that the national vaccination rollout hasn’t been going well.

“I think that this program is going along as really as well can be expected considering we have not this kind of mass vaccination in this country ever,” he said.

The governor noted that the COVID-19 vaccinations have to be carefully scheduled to assure that hospitals can remain properly staffed and “you’re not taking out an entire shift of nurses.”

Nebraska is in the top third of states in regards to the distribution of vaccines, he said. A lof the state’s Pfizer vaccinations are going to pharmacies to distribute to long-term care facilities, he said, and promised Nebraskans would see the rollout “get ramped up” over the next couple of weeks.

Ricketts said that with the funds passed with CARES Act II, Nebraska will have the resources to properly distribute the vaccine.

Officials with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services say they plan to launch their new COVID-19 vaccination registration website for voluntary sign-up in about two weeks. A telephone hotline is expected to be available in roughly 10 days.

Angie Ling, the department’s incident commander, said the system will allow people to register for a vaccine even if they aren’t eligible right away. The state is offering vaccinations in phases, with an initial focus on front-line health care workers and people who work at or live in long-term care facilities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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