KIOS-FM

Associated Press

A growing number of younger people are being hospitalized with the coronavirus in Nebraska as more contagious variants of the virus spread in the state. Nebraska health officials said the average age of hospital patients declined to 51 in March from 61 in January. Officials said the age is also shifting lower because a significant number of older people have been vaccinated. The number of people hospitalized is also growing and it hit 161 Wednesday as the state reported more cases of the virus.

Amazon

Nebraska colleges and universities are encouraging students to get vaccinated for the coronavirus, but they won’t require the shots before students return to campus in the fall. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Nebraska State College System and the state’s largest private colleges all said this week that they have no plans to require students or staff to get vaccinated. UNL spokeswoman Leslie Reed said the university believes the shots are a good idea but it won't mandate them.

Omaha World Herald

Multiple explosions and a fire in an underground concrete electrical vault rocked downtown Omaha and forced the evacuation of a nearby hotel, but no injuries were reported. Authorities say the incident happened Monday night when a power transformer that sits under the sidewalk next to the Doubletree Hotel caught fire. Acting Omaha Fire Battalion Chief Mickey McLaughlin says explosions from the transformer continued after firefighters arrived, producing a large amount of smoke and flames coming from the sidewalk grates over the vault. The hotel was not damaged by the nearby fire.

Nebraska's COVID-19 vaccination eligibility opened to everyone in the state over the age of 16 yesterday, as positivity rates and hospitalizations are going up.  Governor Pete Ricketts says the number of people hospitalized with the virus rose last week after 18 weeks of decline.  He also says the state's positivity rate is above five percent for the first time in eight weeks. Last week, there was a 64 percent increase in cases in Douglas County compared to the previous week among people between the ages of 40 and 59. There was also a 58 percent jump in cases among people ages 20 and 39.

Omaha World Herald

Voters in Omaha will head to the polls Today for city primary elections that will whittle down the field of those in the mayoral race. Five candidates are vying for the post of mayor, while 29 candidates are seeking City Council seats. The top two candidates in each primary race advance to the May 11 general election. Among those seeking the top spot of mayor is incumbent Jean Stothert, a Republican seeking her third term in office who leads the field in fundraising, with more than $380,000 cash on hand.

Lincoln Journal Star

A Lincoln business lobbyist and Republican operative has won confirmation to Nebraska’s state health board on despite criticism from a handful of Democratic lawmakers. Senators voted 37-7 to confirm Bud Synhorst to the state Board of Health. The board sets rules for a variety of health care professions, including doctors and nurses, and regulates the people who work in those fields.

Supermarket News

Nebraska will not participate in a vaccine passport program.  That's according to Governor Pete Ricketts, who made the announcement yesterday afternoon.  Ricketts says a vaccine passport program would go against the "freedom of movement and healthcare privacy." 

KIFI

Strong winds, warmer conditions and low humidity are combining to create a fire danger across several states, including parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. The National Weather Service has issued red flag watches and warnings for most of all four states on Monday. A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are present. The weather service says south to southwest winds of 15 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph, are expected in areas covered by a red flag watch or warning. Outdoor burning is not recommended. 

Data Center Dynamics

Facebook is again expanding a data center it is building in the Omaha suburbs. The social media giant said Wednesday that it will spend an additional $400 million to add another 1 million square feet to the data center that is partly operational southwest of Omaha in Sarpy County. The company estimates that it will spend nearly $1.5 billion total on the project that will now expand from Papillion into Springfield and include 3.6 million square feet. When the project is completed in 2024, Facebook said the data center will employ roughly 300 people.

Washington Times

The top prosecutor serving Omaha and surrounding areas in Douglas County has convened a single grand jury to investigate more than a dozen in-custody deaths — including two people killed by Omaha police. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine is leading the process and that the unusually high number of case represents a backlog as courts sought to avoid convening jurors and others during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the cases the grand jury will consider is the Nov.

Omaha World Herald

Federal wildlife officials have confirmed that a gray wolf was shot and killed last fall in north-central Nebraska south of Bassett. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the 81-pound male wolf was shot Nov. 16 by a rancher checking on his livestock. Wildlife officials said the wolf had coloration like a coyote, but was much larger. The rancher told authorities he had recently lost three yearling calves to what he suspected were coyote attacks. The World-Herald learned of the killing through records it obtained from the U.S.

Nebraska 4H

Despite being much smaller than normal because of the coronavirus, last years Nebraska State Fair ended with nearly $1.8 million profit. That was an improvement of more than $1.5 million from the 2019 fair. An annual audit found the 2020 fair had revenue of $6.5 million, down nearly 37% from the previous year. But because the fair had no carnival and paid entertainment, expenses were only $3.7 million, about $7 million less than 2019. Auditors said with other factors considered, the fair had a net profit of about $1.8 million, compared to a nearly $1.5 million loss in 2019. 

Omaha World Herald

Residents of 12 units of an apartment complex in Omaha are out of their homes after a fire. The blaze broke out Saturday afternoon at the Fontenelle Hills Apartment complex. WOWT-TV reports that authorities believe improper disposal of smoking materials is to blame. The fire began in one of the units then spread into the attic and into other units, causing the roof to collapse. The building was constructed in the 1970s, before sprinklers were required. A few people were treating for smoke inhalation but no serious injuries were reported. The building was a total loss. 

legacy.com

A former longtime Nebraska state lawmaker has died at the age of 79. Dwite Pedersen of Omaha served in the Nebraska Legislature from 1993 to 2009. Pedersen was a leading advocate for alcohol and drug rehabilitation and worked with troubled youth and prison inmates. Pedersen represented the Elkhorn area of Omaha and ran unsuccessfully for Omaha City Council in 2017. He worked as a counselor focused on youth and was a recovered alcoholic who had been sober for 40 years. He also was known to help prison inmates, including those who rarely got visits from others. 

ABC13

Heating bills are showing up now in many rural Nebraska communities, and residents are shocked at what they’re seeing. The Omaha World-Herald reports that bills for residents of Pender that are typically $200 to $250 ballooned to $900 because of the cold stretch in February that caused a spike in wholesale natural gas prices due to high demand and a lack of supply. Utilities that had to buy gas during that period got burned. Municipal governments are also are feeling the shock.

Fremont Tribune

Nebraska will move to its next coronavirus vaccination phase today with a focus on residents who are 50 to 64 years old and those with certain health conditions. Gov. Pete Ricketts says the change will apply to the entire state, unlike previous phases where the transition has taken place by public health district. Under the new phase, 90% of doses are required to go to residents in the 50-to-64 age group or people who qualified under previous phases. The remaining 10% will go to people with health conditions that are chosen by local doctors and public health officials in each region.

Omaha Daily Record

Home prices in Omaha are on the rise despite the ongoing pandemic.  The Housing Price Project at the University of Nebraska at Omaha shows the average price of single-family home rose by more than ten-percent in 2020. That's a nearly eight percent jump compared to the previous 20 years. 

 

BBC

Nebraska health officials say a variant of the coronavirus first found in Brazil has been found in Omaha. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed two people in Douglas County have tested positive for the so-called Brazil P.1 variant. That strain is believed to be responsible for a surge in hospitalizations in Brazil even though many people there had already developed COVID-19 and made antibodies against it.

Marietta Daily Journal

Omaha’s mayor says she’ll return to work and seek reelection after her husband, a prominent local surgeon, died earlier this month from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Mayor Jean Stothert on Tuesday thanked the public and her campaign opponents for their support following the death of her husband, Dr. Joseph Stothert. She says he would have wanted her to continue as mayor and recalled how he joined her door-knocking campaigns, her town hall events and her annual State of the City addresses. She says her children, Elizabeth Leddy and Dr. Andrew Stothert, have also encouraged her to run.

Nebraska state tax collections soared far above projections in February, but the numbers are likely to come back down in the next few months. The Nebraska Department of Revenue reported net tax receipts last month of $449 million, which is 96% higher than the certified forecast of $229 million. The surge was driven by net corporate income tax collections that were nearly 602% higher than expected and individual income tax collections that were nearly 164% above projections.

KKTV

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is railing against a proclamation by the governor of Colorado that encourages people to avoid meat for one day a week, calling it a “direct attack on our way of life” and signing a pro-meat declaration of his own. Ricketts surrounded himself with top officials from Nebraska’s meat, agricultural and restaurant industries on Monday as he declared Saturday “Meat on the Menu Day” in Nebraska. The day was chosen to coincide with Colorado’s “MeatOut Day,” a nonbinding proclamation signed by Gov. Jared Polis late last month and backed by an animal rights group.

Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska officials are speaking out against a bill that could legalize medical marijuana in the state.  Governor Pete Ricketts, Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley and former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne hosted a news conference yesterday to voice their opposition to the proposal.  Ricketts mentioned several young people who died after consuming marijuana products.  Osborne noted that he has mentored people whose lives have been negatively impacted by the drug.

More than 250,000 people have signed up for a coronavirus vaccination on Nebraska’s official registration website, but state officials say they want more and urged residents to add their names. State officials want residents to sign up online at vaccinate.ne.gov or through a toll-free hotline at 833-998-2275. The state is currently working to vaccinate residents who are at least 65 years and older, but the next phase will focus on people ages 50 to 64 and those with certain underlying health conditions.

Omaha World Herald

Roughly 5,000 teachers from the Omaha area received their coronavirus vaccine shots this weekend. The Douglas County Health Department held two large vaccination clinics Saturday at Millard North and Omaha North high schools to distribute doses of the new Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine to educators. Tim Royers, president of the Millard Education Association, praised the mass vaccination effort. Royers said he’s optimistic all educators in Douglas County could be vaccinated by the end of next weekend. 

The family of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert says her husband has died. Police found a man dead at the couple’s home. A statement Friday from the Stothert family announced the death of Joe Stothert. The statement came about three hours after Omaha police were called to the mayor’s home to investigate reports of a shooting. Officers found the body of a man. Police didn’t provide details about the shooting but stated that foul play wasn’t suspected. The family says Joe Stothert's death was a "tragic loss." 

Lincoln Journal Star

State regulators have filed a lawsuit accusing a Nebraska ethanol plant of repeatedly failing to comply with their orders to clean up wastewater and old, pesticide-laced seed corn. The lawsuit filed Monday comes amid growing complaints about the AltEn plant outside of Mead, a town of less than 600 people about 37 miles west of Omaha. Mead residents have complained about a stench coming from the plant since shortly after it opened in 2015. They’ve reported bloody noses, headaches and trouble breathing, although no one has studied whether those problems are tied to the plant.

CNBC

Nebraska could get its first doses of drug-maker Johnson & Johnson’s new coronavirus vaccine as early as this week. Gov. Pete Ricketts says the state has been allowed to order up 15,000 doses, but state officials don’t yet know how much they’ll get. The announcement came days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine, clearing the way for a third shot that’s shown to be effective. Unlike the vaccines from manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, which require two doses to provide full immunity, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be delivered in one shot.

Norfolk Public Schools

Norfolk Public Schools will be on probation for the rest of the school year after racial slurs were yelled at players from Omaha Northwest's girls basketball game earlier this month. The Nebraska School Activities Association concluded its investigation Thursday. The school district is implementing several measures in response to the incident on Feb. 12. The steps include issuing a formal apology to Omaha Public Schools, changing seating arrangements at activities and developing an equity and diversity plan. School officials were not able to determine who was responsible for the slurs.

The National Review

Nebraska Republicans have reprimanded U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse for his work in Washington, D.C., but stopped short of censuring him Saturday for his outspoken criticism of President Donald Trump. Sasse was one of just seven Republicans who voted last month to convict Trump at his impeachment trial, and he has been openly critical of Trump.

Omaha World Herald

A bill that would impose harsher penalties on protesters who loot, riot or commit other crimes has received a chilly reception from a Nebraska legislative committee. Some critics of the bill argued Wednesday that it would infringe on free-speech rights and punish people who gather peacefully. The measure was modeled after a recently passed Tennessee law and was introduced in response to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests in Omaha and Lincoln that led to property damage and one death.

Pages