Mar 20, 2020

Ricketts to seek $58.6M for Nebraska's response to virus

Posted Mar 20, 2020 8:24 PM

By GRANT SCHULTE-Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Pete Ricketts asked lawmakers Friday for $58.6 million in emergency state funding to help pay for medical and cleaning supplies, tests, employee overtime and other expenses needed to respond to the new coronavirus pandemic as the number of Nebraska cases rose to 37.

Ricketts was expected to present the new budget request to legislators Friday afternoon. Lawmakers are tentatively planning to return to the Capitol on Monday to consider the package.

"We want to make sure we've got the resources necessary," Ricketts said at a Capitol news conference.

Ricketts said the money would come from the state's emergency fund, which is designed for budget crunches and one-time expenses. The biggest chunks of money would pay for lab equipment, protective gear for local health departments and a surge of employees needed in the state's public health facilities and veterans' homes.

The announcement came as eight more cases of COVID-19 were identified in the state, including the first case in Lincoln.

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said in a news release that a 48-year-old Lincoln man who traveled to Colorado last week developed symptoms on Sunday. The man is self-isolating at his home, officials said.

In Douglas County, three more people tested positive for coronavirus, the health department said. All three - two men in their 40s and a woman in her 30s - had recently traveled to different places in the Southeast.

Earlier Friday, officials announced four other cases, including a man in Nemaha County and another man a Sarpy County. The two others were in western Nebraska's Lincoln County - a woman in her 40s and a man in his 20s.

Nebraska public health officials have tested 800 people so far and are focusing on health care workers, first responders and people who are considered vulnerable to the virus, said Dr. Gary Anthone, the state's chief medical officer. He added testing has been limited because of a lack of supplies, but he doesn't think the state has fallen behind in testing those who need it.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Federal court officials in Nebraska also announced Friday that the courts will extend a moratorium on jury trials and grand juries until at least May 1.


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