June is usually the month when summer hits full swing in Nebraska. In a typical year, Omaha would be hosting the College World Series right now. The Swedish Festival in Stromsburg, Polish Days in Loup City, and numerous other community celebrations would occur this month. NEBRASKAland Days would be underway in North Platte. Communities like Seward, Central City, and Ralston would be readying plans for Fourth of July celebrations.
While this year has been anything but normal, we’re seeing encouraging signs in our battle against coronavirus. Thanks to Nebraskans who are practicing social distancing even as we reopen, we continue to maintain robust capacity in our health care system. We’ve seen a downward trend in coronavirus hospitalizations in recent weeks. Counties that 4-6 weeks ago were experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases are seeing very few new cases today.
The virus isn’t gone, and we must continue to be smart and follow social distancing guidelines. When you’re out in public places, keep six feet of distance from other people. Continue to wash your hands often, avoid large groups of people, and wear a mask when you go to the store. These behaviors will help us slow the spread of the virus even further. As a state, we’ve been very successful in our efforts so far. As Nebraskans use good sense in their social interactions, I’m confident we’ll keep heading in the right direction.
In light of the progress we’ve made, our Direct Health Measures were relaxed again on June 22nd. Most of Nebraska — 89 out of our 93 counties — entered Phase Three of our plan to loosen restrictions. Dakota, Hall, Hamilton, and Merrick counties moved to Phase Two of our plan.
As we proceed to the next phases by region, we’re also loosening restrictions on sports statewide. Team sports provide important exercise and community camaraderie—something we’ve all missed the last few months. On June 1st, limited and non-contact sports resumed practices in Nebraska. These sports have safely restarted with no issues. Given how smoothly team sports have resumed, we’re going to allow contact sports—such as soccer, basketball, and tackle football—to begin statewide in July. Both practices and games for contact sports can take place as of July 1, 2020.
We’ve also announced the content of the Phase Four Directed Health Measures. We’ve not yet set a date for these to take effect. However, we’re providing the Phase Four rules so that Nebraskans know what to expect as we move forward.
For details on each phase, go online to dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus and click on Directed Health Measures.
Additionally, Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt has announced that schools will restart with students in the classroom this fall. Commissioner Blomstedt has been in frequent contact with public health officials and superintendents across the state. He’s also coordinated with education leaders nationwide. His team is developing a set of best practices for schools to consult as they safely welcome students and teachers back to their buildings. All this information and more is being posted online at launchne.com. Schools won’t look exactly like they did last fall, but I’m confident the Commissioner and local leaders will have a solid plan in place to reopen safely.
Test Nebraska mobile sites continue to deploy to communities across the state. With the exception of Douglas County, any Nebraskan who wants to be tested is now eligible. In Douglas County, we’ve added 15-35 year olds to the priority groups for testing, and we expect everyone to qualify for testing in the near future. I encourage Nebraskans to sign up at www.TestNebraska.com and make an appointment to be tested.
The newest DHMs, and associated guidance documents, will be posted online at www.dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus. I also invite you to visit my website regularly for updates (www.Governor.Nebraska.gov).
I appreciate Nebraskans exercising personal responsibility to practice social distancing. It’s helping keep Nebraska on its path of reopening. As we continue to work to slow the spread of the virus, let’s keep cooperating so we can get Nebraska growing for years to come.