Mar 31, 2020

Gov. Ricketts gives healthcare facilities greater flexibility, announces safety guidelines for nursing homes

Posted Mar 31, 2020 11:44 PM
Gov. Ricketts (podium, Nebraska Health Care Association President & CEO Heath Boddy (right of Gov., and AARP’s Nebraska State Director Todd Stubbendieck (far left) at today’s briefing.
Gov. Ricketts (podium, Nebraska Health Care Association President & CEO Heath Boddy (right of Gov., and AARP’s Nebraska State Director Todd Stubbendieck (far left) at today’s briefing.

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced a new executive order to give healthcare facilities greater flexibility to respond to coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). 

The purpose of the order is to enable healthcare facilities to expand capacity as the need arises.  Among other changes, the Governor’s order accomplishes the following:

  1. Waives time limits for how long Critical Access Hospitals and Ambulatory Surgical Centers may keep patients.
  2. Waives the time limit on complex nursing interventions in assisted living facilities.
  3. Modifies the training and testing requirements for nurse aides, medication aides, and dining assistants to allow individuals with sufficient training and appropriate supervision to serve temporarily in these capacities.
  4. Defers requirements for the renewal and implementation dates of facility licenses and extends the licenses so that they do not need to be renewed during this emergency.
  5. Waives the Certificate of Need Act to allow hospitals to add or convert any beds into long-term care beds or rehabilitation beds in appropriate locations to care for COVID-19 patients who no longer require acute care support. 
  6. Waives the licensed bed limit if additional unlicensed beds are available or could be added for use in treating COVID-19 cases or to meet the needs of non-COVID-19 patients.
  7. Directs the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to establish guidance for payment of Medicaid services via telehealth.

Read the executive order by clicking here.

Additionally, the Governor noted that the federal government has waived both the 96-hour length-of-stay limit and the 25 bed limit for Critical Access Hospitals.

At today’s press conference, Gov. Ricketts also announced new safety guidelines for nursing homes.  They include:

  1. Directing sick teammates to stay home.
  2. Instructing facilities to plan for when influenza or COVID-19 may hit their facility.
  3. Urging facilities to develop a contingency plan in the event that staff have to stay home.
  4. Recommending that healthcare providers and residents wear masks when together in the same room.

The guidance is available online at

Heath Boddy, President & CEO of the Nebraska Health Care Association, joined the Governor at this afternoon’s press briefing.  He said that the Governor’s executive order is extremely helpful for care facilities as they seek to maintain adequate staffing levels during the public health emergency.  In addition, he talked about the heroic efforts of healthcare workers on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.

Todd Stubbendieck, Nebraska State Director for AARP, also took part in today’s news conference.  He invited Nebraskans to visit AARP’s website for information on how older adults can reduce their likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 (  He reminded snowbirds to self-quarantine for 14 days, and to monitor their health, upon return to Nebraska.  He also called on Nebraskans to lend a helping hand to the state’s senior citizens by checking on their well-being and offering to run errands for them. 

At the press briefing, Gov. Ricketts also announced an executive order that directs the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to suspend the issuance of non-resident turkey hunting licenses through May 31, 2020.  The intent of the order is to reduce out-of-state travel to Nebraska during the coronavirus pandemic.  Read the executive order by clicking here.

The Governor also talked about his experience giving blood today at the State Teammate Blood Drive hosted in partnership with the American Red Cross.  He urged Nebraskans to step up and donate in order to meet the urgent need for blood during the pandemic.  Nebraskans interested in donating can visit for more information.

Today, Husker football coach Scott Frost urged Nebraskans to comply with social distancing guidelines, to practice good hygiene, and to self-isolate if sick.  View his public announcement by clicking here.

Full video of today’s press briefing is available by clicking here.