Ricketts Postpones Elective Surgeries, Outlines More Steps if COVID-19 Hospitalizations Increase

Nov. 13, 2020, 1:46 p.m. ·

Steps at different percentages of hospital patients with COVID-19 (Source: Nebraska governor's office)

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As COVID-19 patients increase strain on Nebraska’s hospitals, Gov. Pete Ricketts is ordering delay in elective surgeries, and outlining more restrictions if the trend continues.

In a news conference Friday, Ricketts said the state had 905 people in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Thursday night – about 20 percent of all hospital patients. So, he said, he’s ordering postponing elective surgeries – those that can be delayed 4 weeks or more – to preserve hospital capacity. And he talked about additional restrictions he will impose if COVID patients continue to take up more of the state’s hospital capacity.

“If we were to get to 25 percent, and at the current hospital capacity that would be roughly 1,170 hospitalizations from coronavirus, then we will prohibit youth extracurricular activities below the high school level,” Ricketts said.

Other new restrictions that would be triggered by hitting the 25 percent mark would include limiting bars to carry-out, delivery and drive-through services only, limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people and outside to 25, and allowing all public meetings to be held virtually. You can find a complete list of these contingent measures in this story on our website, netnebraska.org/news.

One measure the governor’s not considering is a mask mandates. Ricketts said counties don’t have the authority to require masks, cities will have to check with their legal advisors, but he will not authorize local health departments to issue mask mandates.

“I’m against mask mandates, and so the state’s not going to approve that for local public health directors or local public health districts to do that. And my position on this has been very clear and something that we’ve maintained throughout the entire pandemic going back to last spring. And I really want to emphasize that, you know, masks work, but they’re just one tool,” he said.

Ricketts has said he believes there’s not enough law enforcement to enforce mandates, and they could backfire by breeding resistance.