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Nebraska officials credit Center for Operational Excellence with successful pandemic response

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 9:29 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts hosted a news conference with several state officials Monday morning to applaud the achievements of the state’s Center of Operational Excellence, particularly in its role in managing the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since May 2016, the COE has facilitated 575 process improvement projects. Collectively, these projects have saved over 630,000 hours of work, allowing State teammates to put an even greater focus on customer service,” according to a release from the governor’s office. “In recognition of the COE’s accomplishments, Gov. Ricketts has proclaimed October as ‘Center of Operational Excellence’ month in Nebraska.”

At the beginning of his presentation, Ricketts also encouraged Nebraskans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, even as hospital capacity increases.

“While this virus, it primarily has an impact on those 65 and older, you can be in your 40s and severely impacted,” he said, noting those with questions should consult their doctor.

The governor said the state’s response to the pandemic illustrates the success of the state’s operational excellence. The COE made it possible for Nebraska officials to do process improvement and create a culture of operational excellence throughout all the state agencies, with the COE as the hub for that.

The leadership training and “capability building” provided by the COE, established in 2016, prepared the state for the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials said Monday morning. Specifically, the systems in place allowed for the distribution of critical PPE to healthcare providers at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

Dr. Gary Anthone, Nebraska’s chief medical officer, credited COE with providing Nebraska COVID-19 data in order to give state and medical officials guidance on how to best combat the pandemic. It led to the state’s focus on hospitalizations and hospital capacity, he said, and saved lives.

The COE was also instrumental in processing the surge in unemployment claims that escalated in 2020, the governor said.

Ricketts said the COE made many of the mechanisms vital to working through the pandemic come to fruition faster.

Also on Monday, the governor reiterated his position against vaccination mandates and said during the news conference that he planned to take OSHA to court to fight those requirements.

Ricketts also defended the state’s decision to roll back the frequency of its COVID-19 data reporting.

“Nobody needs daily information to do staffing,” he said, equating the need for daily data to measuring the distance between Lincoln and Omaha with a yardstick.

The governor also voiced his support for Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who pleaded “not guilty” last week to charges of concealment and making false statements.

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