Ricketts Re-Tightening Coronavirus Restrictions

Oct. 16, 2020, 4:45 p.m. ·

Gov. Pete Ricketts discusses re-tightened restrictions Friday (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

Listen To This Story

Even though he’s re-tightening restrictions in response to increasing hospitalizations, Gov. Pete Ricketts isn’t second-guessing the state’s response to the coronavirus.

Friday, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced a significant re-tightening of restrictions, including cutting indoor venues back from 75 to 50 percent of capacity, restricting bars and restaurants to 8 people per table, and limiting elective surgery to hospitals with at least 10 percent spare capacity in staffed beds.

Dr. James Lawler of the University of Nebraska Medical Center said we’re learning more about how the virus spreads, pointing to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control.

“The single most important risk factor that they found, when they compared people who had been infected with those who didn’t, was attendance at restaurants where people were not masking,” Lawler said.

Ricketts, too, stressed the importance of masking. But he had this to say when asked why his new directed health measures do not include a mask mandate.

“Why we’re not mandating them is because we don’t want to build the resistance to it. But as Dr. Lawler described, masks work. We want people to understand when they’re supposed to use them: when you’re going to be closer than six feet, and use ‘em when you’re going to be in those confined spaces, crowded places or (in) close contact,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts was asked if he thinks the state loosened restrictions too much, too early.

“Here’s the deal: Nobody really knew what this virus was going to do. We took the steps to loosen some of these restrictions. At the same time we were going back into school, so there’s a variety of different factors there. But we’re continuing to manage it based upon the hospitalizations, and that’s what we’re just going to have to continue to do,” he said.

And Ricketts said increased precautions to preserve the state’s hospital capacity, which currently has 30 percent availability statewide, are not just for coronavirus victims.

“If a hospital runs out of space because they’ve got coronavirus patients, that may mean that that heart attack victim has to be directed to a different hospital. So this is not just about people getting coronavirus. This is about anybody who may need that acute care,” he said.

The new restrictions take effect Wednesday and are scheduled to run through November 30.