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Ricketts commends Nebraska National Guard for pandemic work, affirms strength of state’s healthcare system

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

At his daily coronavirus press briefing on May 6, Governor Pete Ricketts thanked the Nebraska National Guard for its versatile service to the state during the pandemic.  Among other duties, the Guard has played a key role in packaging and distributing supplies to food banks, distributing personal protective equipment (PPE), and supporting the operation of mobile testing locations.

Major General Daryl L. Bohac, the Adjutant General of the Nebraska National Guard, joined the Governor for today’s press conference.  He overviewed the various missions the National Guard has undertaken to aid the State’s coronavirus response.

Gov. Ricketts: Reminders

Throughout the month of May, we are reminding people to follow our Six Rules to Keep Nebraska Healthy.

Stay home.  Do not take unnecessary trips outside the home.  Respect the ten-person limit.

Socially distance your work.  Work from home or use the six-foot rule as much as possible in the workplace.

Shop alone and only shop once a week.  Do not take family with you.

Help kids follow social distancing.  Play at home.  No group sports.  And no playgrounds.

Help seniors stay at home by shopping for them.  Do not visit long-term care facilities.

Exercise daily at home or with an appropriately socially-distanced activity.

We need Nebraskans to go to TestNebraska.com to fill out a short, five-minute health assessment.

126,559 unique individuals have taken about 160,000 assessments as of this morning.

Test Nebraska completed 491 tests yesterday in Grand Island and Omaha (combined).

More mobile testing sites will be announced in the near future.

Everyone who signed up with Test Nebraska received a follow up email asking them to update their assessment on Sunday night.

If you haven’t done so already, please update your assessment.

Symptoms can develop quickly, and we will ask people to update their assessment from time to time as needed.

Again, the website is TestNebraska.com.

Gov. Ricketts: Hospital Data

The goal of our response to coronavirus has been to protect our hospital system to make sure people get the care they need.

We cannot stop transmission of the virus, but we have been able to successfully slow its spread.

Our hospital system has plenty of capacity to treat Nebraskans who need care:

Forty-nine percent of hospital beds are available.

Forty-four percent of ICU beds are available.

Seventy-nine percent of ventilators are available.

Gov. Ricketts: Nebraska National Guard

The Nebraska National Guard has been involved in our coronavirus response since early February.

In fact, exactly three months ago—on Feb. 6—Maj. Gen. Bohac and I were both at UNMC briefing the press about the plan to house Americans at Camp Ashland for quarantine as they evacuated from China.

That was a successful effort, in terms of slowing the spread of coronavirus, and all 57 of those travelers returned home to their families in good health.

If you were going to design an ideal military force to assist with a response like coronavirus, it would be the National Guard.  Our 4,500 Soldiers and Airmen here in Nebraska are part of every community, and when called upon they bring tremendous skills and capability wherever our state needs them.

Our National Guard regularly practices disaster response together with local, state, and federal partners to save lives and protect our communities.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is our lead state agency in the coronavirus response, and the National Guard has played an essential role in support of DHHS.

Maj. Gen. Bohac: Nebraska National Guard

Nearly 400 Airmen and Soldiers are actively serving today.  That number tops the peak from last year’s flood response (329).

These are all volunteers.  We’ve not ordered anyone into duty.

We have six mobile testing teams.

The typical team has six medics, data entry folks, decontamination specialists, and others giving oversight.

One mobile testing team, composed of about 18 people, can do 600 swabs per day in a walk-through operation and 300 swabs in a day for drive-thru testing.

Currently, we have testing teams in Columbus, Crete, Grand Island, Holdrege, McCook, and Schuyler.

Our teams have been in 29 different cities, 26 counties, and 18 local health departments.

They’ve driven a total of 33,000 miles and have collected 11,162 samples so far.

We also have medical folks involved with the Nebraska Accommodation Project.

They’re helping to staff the isolation operation.  This is where people go who test positive, have low medical needs, and need a place to stay in order to avoid exposing their household to the virus.

We also have teams working with food banks in Omaha and Lincoln to distribute provisions to those who need them.  In turn, these food banks work with others throughout the state.

This team has driven 21,000 miles so far.

They’ve distributed more than 90,000 pounds of food products.

We’re also working to support the procurement team in the Department of Administrative Services by distributing PPE to healthcare workers, first responders, and others.

The Guard’s PPE team has distributed 6 million masks or face shields and another 2 million gloves.

In the background, we also have strategic planners and teammates working to provide logistical support.  This includes assistance at two CHI Health testing sites.

Our folks signed up to be part of the Nebraska National Guard to help their fellow citizens in times of need.  They’re doing an excellent job of serving Nebraskans during the pandemic.