Jun 25, 2020 9:36 PM

Ricketts: 'We can't get cocky' with Nebraska virus response

Posted Jun 25, 2020 9:36 PM

By GRANT SCHULTE-Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska is seeing fewer new cases of the coronavirus and its hospitals are well-positioned to treat patients, but that could change quickly if residents don't continue to take safety precautions, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Thursday.

Ricketts said the state is likely to see another uptick in virus cases due to relaxed social distancing restrictions as well as the recent mass protests over the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

Nebraska officials confirmed 129 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a number has been trending down from the high of 677 on May 7, according to the state's online tracking portal. Hospital capacity remained relatively strong, with 38% of its regular beds, 44% of its intensive care unit beds and 80% of its ventilators available for patients.

"While we're in a good position right now, we can't get cocky," Ricketts said at a news conference. "We've got to continue to manage this."

Nebraska never imposed a formal stay-home order as many other states did, but Ricketts effectively closed restaurants and bars and forced the cancellation of large gathering to keep the virus from spreading. He has gradually been easing those restrictions, seeking to strike a balance between public health and the need to resume normal life.

Nebraska officials have confirmed 18,221 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began out of 163,368 people who were tested. Of those known cases, 257 people have died.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

State officials also detailed some of their plans Thursday for how they intend to spend a small part of the $1.25 billion Nebraska received from the federal coronavirus relief package.

Dannette Smith, the CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said the state will set aside $85 million for nonprofit groups that help people who are struggling to feed or house themselves and people with mental health problems.