LINCOLN – The entire state of Nebraska is now under a directed health measure, enhancing efforts to continue to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the state’s ninth COVID-19 related Directed Health Measure (DHM) Friday. The measure added the remaining counties not already under one and will be in effect until May 11. The directed health measure was set to begin at 10 p.m Friday.
“Now that we have seen community spread across the state, the State is applying directed health measures for all 93 counties until May 11th,” Ricketts said in a press release. “The next several weeks will be key to slowing the spread of the virus in Nebraska. We are asking Nebraskans to further limit social interactions, work, go home, and shop once a week.”
The 11 counties of the Panhandle and Grant County had already been under a directed health measure since Monday. The governor had previously been ordering directed health measures in districts where cases of community spread had occurred. Scotts Bluff County’s first case of the coronavirus was identified by health officials as a case of community spread, meaning that officials are unable to determine where the person may have acquired the virus.
The state-directed health measure imposes an enforceable 10-person limit on public gatherings and requires restaurants and bars to close their dining areas and conduct only takeout, delivery and curbside business.
It also prohibits medical and dental elective surgeries and procedures, requires all schools to operate without students and cancels all school-related extracurricular activities through May 31.
It requires individuals to home quarantine for at least 14 days if they have tested positive for COVID-19, have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, have experienced sudden onset of a cough and/or shortness of breath or if they reside with or have resided with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have the above symptoms.
Some counties have adopted more restrictive measures. In Lancaster County, measures have resulted in the closure of tattoo parlors, salons and similar businesses.
So far, Ricketts has indicated that he doesn’t want to invoke stay-at-home orders that have been put into place in neighboring states such as Kansas and Colorado.
During his daily coronavirus briefing Friday, he indicated that he believes that people are complying with the state’s guidance on social distancing, but may need to do better.
“We want you to keep your distance from other people. If you stay at home, you’re probably going to be able to comply with that,” he said, adding that he is evaluating whether additional steps are needed to increase compliance.”
Panhandle Public Health District Director Kim Engel said that Ricketts has expressed concerns about enforcing a more restrictive order, heeding advice that if such an order were to be put into place too early, people would not abide it. The balance comes in putting in such an order, if needed, before cases overwhelm the state or local health systems.
For more on the state’s directed health measure, visit the governor’s website,