On Thursday, Gov. Pete Ricketts unveiled new directed health measures.

Panhandle Public Health District officials reviewed the measures, most of which will take effect on June 1, during calls on Thursday and Friday.

Officials have begun meetings to explain in more detail the directives to groups, such as having a meeting Friday with athletic directors and coaches as non-contact sports are allowed to resume.

To date, measures to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus have been effective in the Panhandle. As of Friday, the 12 counties of the Panhandle were reporting 91 cases of the coronavirus.

Measures have been working, PPHD director Kim Engel said.

In recent weeks, She explained local, state and national jurisdictions within it were in a stage called “the hammer,” in which health officials took measures to reduce spread of the virus, as well as taking steps to improve knowledge about cases, put into place proper testing and tracing and relieve pressure on the health care system.

“We've been able to really maintain low numbers during that time,” Engel said.

In the upcoming weeks, jurisdictions are in a stage called “the dance,” during which measures such as testing, contact tracing, quarantining and isolating continue as well as education of the public. Now as the district is in “the dance” phase, health officials will try to balance out relaxation of directed health measures and continue to maintain low case numbers and low capacity throughout the Panhandle’s health system.

Just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, people were advised that health measures that required persons traveling outside of the state for non-essential travel had to quarantine or two weeks. Now, the directed health measure is only requiring those who are returning from overseas travel, except for those traveling as part of military service or health care.

“We can freely go about from one state to the other and I know that will make a lot of people happy,” Engel said.

One of the key directed health measures that have been enacted involves gatherings. Effective on June 1, gatherings can increase from 10 persons to 25 persons.

Officials have also set into place required guidelines for many types of gatherings:

— Parameters for weddings and funerals, which were allowed to resume in May, have been expanded. Venues will be limited to 50 percent occupancy, groups will be limited to six or fewer, and venue staff must serve food directly to patrons. Dances or other social events that require guests to gather outside of their respective tables are prohibited.

However, all indoor and outdoor locations and venues that hold 500 or more individuals must submit reopening plans, which will be reviewed by the Panhandle Public Health District. The plan will detail how the venue’s staff plan to social distance guests and meet sanitation. Forms for venue operators to submit those plans will be available on PPHD’s website next week.

— Those who want to enjoy an indoor movie will be able to, starting in June. However, those facilities will have to present re-opening plans. Drive-by theaters will be able to operate at full capacity, with attendees required to remain in their vehicles.

— Unfortunately, parades, carnivals, midways, dances and street dances remain prohibited through June 30. Drive-by parades will remain allowed.

State and local health officials are also providing guidance to municipalities and others for opening up playgrounds, swimming pools and other locations.

For more information, visit pphd.org or contact PPHD directly, 308-487-3600, for more information.

On April 30, Ricketts issued health measures and many of those directives remain in place.

Directed health measures that required churches to take certain steps, such as ensuring 6-feet of separation between household units and no passing of materials, including communion, remain in place. Limits for businesses such as salons, restaurants and others put into place also continue.

Health measures enacted allowed elected and dental surgeries to resume, as long as bed availability and ventilator availability, as well as supplies of PPE were within certain limits. In the Panhandle, PPHD offiicals are charged with monitoring that data and those surgeries continue.

Directed health measures are not printed in full in this article, so businesses and entities can get the full text of the directives on the governor’s website, governor.nebraska.gov or on the PPHD website, www.pphd.org.

State and local health officials are also providing guidance to municipalities and others for opening up playgrounds, swimming pools and other locations.

Directed health measures are not printed in full in this article, so businesses and entities can get the full text of the directives on the governor’s website, governor.nebraska.gov or on the PPHD website, www.pphd.org.

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