Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday announced additional public health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state, which has seen surging numbers in the past six weeks.
Ricketts said masks must be worn at businesses when people are in close contact for at least 15 minutes. He said 6 feet of separation will be required at gyms, bars, restaurants and churches. People can sit with members of their household, Ricketts said.
Occupancy at indoor gatherings will be reduced to 25% — on Oct. 21, Ricketts had decreased that percentage to 50%.
Only family members or people within the same household will be allowed to attend youths' extracurricular activities, the governor said.
For weddings, up to eight people can be seated at a table, and dancing is allowed if they remain at their table, Ricketts said.
Dining in at restaurants and bars is still allowed, Ricketts said. He said tables must be 6 feet apart and people must remain seated except when going to the restroom or ordering food.
The new rules go into effect at midnight Wednesday. They will be in effect through Nov. 30.
Over the weekend, Omaha-area medical workers launched a social media campaign calling for Ricketts to impose stricter restrictions.
“Nebraska hospitals are suffering,” Dr. Erica Carlsson, an emergency medicine physician at Nebraska Medicine, said on Twitter. “Our ER’s are jam-packed and we are tired. We need real mandates, enforcement of those mandates and action by the government. Nebraskans will suffer and many will die if we keep up this pace of COVID spread.”
The number of Nebraskans hospitalized with COVID-19 is straining the health care system and burning out doctors, nurses and hospital staff, they said.
As of Sunday, 794 people were in the hospital in Nebraska battling coronavirus. That's more than double the number three weeks ago and more than three times the late May peak of 232.
On Friday, the state recorded 2,681 new infections and Saturday and Sunday added a total of 3,276 more new positive cases.
Across the state, 703 people have died from the virus.
And infections are rising in rural communities. In the spring, those areas were seen as a refuge from the virus.
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