SUBSCRIBE NOW

DHHS releases COVID-19 statistics for week of May 25

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

During the past seven days, the total number of COVID-19-related deaths in the state increased by 23 to 170, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) data dashboard.

The state case total, as of 5:45 p.m. Central Daylight Time today, is 13,654, marking an increase of 1,992 from last Friday. Local health departments are reporting deaths and cases in their jurisdictions. In the event of a discrepancy between DHHS dashboard data and deaths or cases reported by local public health officials, data reported by the local health department should be considered the most up to date.

Less restrictive Directed Health Measures (DHMs) take effect throughout the state on Monday, June 1. Some of these impact the whole state, while some are targeted to particular counties.

Throughout the state, only those returning from international travel will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return(details here). In addition, limited and non-contact team sports, for both youth and adults, may resume practices on June 1. Games resulting from these practices (including rodeos) may begin to occur, starting June 18. However, contact sports like basketball, tackle football, soccer, and wrestling remain prohibited.

All counties except forDakota, Hall, Hamilton and Merrick are beginning Phase II of reopening( details here):

  • General gatherings are limited to the greater of 25 persons (excluding staff) or 25% of rated occupancy (not to exceed 3,000).

  • Joining restaurants, bars may reopen. Bars and restaurants are limited to 50% of the rated occupancy, with a maximum of six persons per table.
  • Gyms will be limited to the greater of 25 people (excluding staff) or 50% of rated occupancy.
  • Salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, and tattoo parlors will be limited to the greater of 25 people (excluding staff) or 50% of rated occupancy. Both workers and patrons are still required in the DHM to wear masks at all times.
  • Wedding and funeral reception venues will be limited to the greater of 25 people (excluding staff) or 50% of rated occupancy. Self-serve buffets and salad bars are prohibited at these events. Moreover, no dances or other social events that require guests to gather outside of their respective tables are permitted.

Plans for reopening must be submitted to the local health departments and approved for all indoor and outdoor locations/venues that hold 500 or more individuals (1,000 or more in counties over 500,000 population) before reopening is permitted. The reopening plan must contain planned number of guests, how the location will meet social distancing guidelines, and sanitation guidelines.

Dakota, Hall, Hamilton, and Merrick counties are in Phase I of reopening(details here):

  • Gatherings—including gyms and event venues—remain subject to the 10-person limit.  

  • Salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, and tattoo parlors can reopen. They are limited to 10 patrons. Both workers and patrons must be masked.
  • Restaurants can reopen for dine-in, up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of six persons per table.  Bars remain closed.
  • Childcare facilities can have up to 15 children per room/space, subject to the usual staff-to-child ratios.

The relaxed measures were announced May 21 by Governor Pete Ricketts at his daily 2 p.m. coronavirus press briefing.

New information has been posted to the DHHS COVID-19 website related to reopening guidance and best practices including (details here):

  • Booth, tabling and sales events
  • Guidance for Estate and Farm auctions
  • Guidelines for conducting faith-based services
  • Outdoor stadium, arena, racetrack event guidance
  • Recommended best practices for barbers and salons
  • Recommended best practices for massage therapy
  • Recommended best practices for body art
  • Restaurant reopening guidelines
  • Sports reopening guidelines
  • Youth day camps guidance

At the coronavirus briefing Friday afternoon, Gov. Ricketts was joined by DHHS CEO Dannette R. Smith, who provided a snapshot of the distribution of COVID-19 among different races and ethnicities in Nebraska. In this new initiative, she explained, DHHS is working to compile data from four sources, and improved data breakdowns would be available on the DHHS COVID-19 dashboard at the end of June.  A static representation of the COVID-19 race and ethnicity data reviewed in today's summary is available here.

Among the data she discussed at the news conference were the higher per capita rates of Latinos and African-Americans being hospitalized due to the virus. As a response to this disparity, Smith said, bi-lingual contact tracers have been hired to work with those communities. Contact tracers ask questions about where the person has recently been, and with whom they have been in close contact. The information gathered by contact tracers helps to identify other persons who have been exposed to the virus and may be at risk.

The Governor continues to urge all Nebraskans to take the assessment provided on the TestNebraska website to help identify cases of COVID-19 in the state. After taking the assessment, participants who fit the criteria will be notified via phone or email that they qualify to be tested for COVID-19. Because people can develop symptoms quickly, Nebraskans are asked to update their assessments from time to time as needed.

Next week, testing will occur in Chadron, Alliance, Scottsbluff, Sidney, Broken Bow, Burwell, St. Paul, Valentine, O'Neill, Norfolk, Columbus, York, Lincoln, Fremont, Bellevue, and Omaha.

After someone tests positive, a contact tracer with the local or state public health team will reach out to them with information on safely self-isolating.

The Governor continues to urge Nebraskans to follow the Six Rules to Keep Nebraska Healthy. 

  1. Stay home.  No non-essential errands and no social gatherings.  Respect the limits on groups of people.
  2. Socially distance your work.  Work from home or use the six-foot rule as much as possible in the workplace. 
  3. Shop alone.  Do this only once a week and do not take your family with you.
  4. Help kids social distance. Play at home, no group sports and no playgrounds.
  5. Help seniors stay at home.  This can be done by shopping for them.  Do not visit long-term facilities. 
  6. Exercise daily.  Do your best to stay as healthy and safe as you can.  

Recent studies show that a significant portion of people with COVID-19 lack symptoms and those who eventually develop symptoms can pass the virus to others before showing symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-faq.html.

Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing. Public health officials continue to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus.

Here's where to find tools and resources for individuals and families, schools, communities, businesses, healthcare facilities, and first responders on the DHHS website - http://dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus and CDC's website – https://www.cdc.gov/covid19 .

DHHS opened a statewide COVID-19 information line to help answer general questions and share the latest information and resources with Nebraskans to help keep them informed. The number is (402) 552-6645 or toll-free at (833) 998-2275; hours of operation are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. CDT, 7 days a week. DHHS will continue to update Nebraskans through the DHHS website and on Facebook and Twitter as we have new information. The CDC's website is also a good resource for COVID-19 information - https://www.cdc.gov/covid19 .