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Associated Press

Nebraska lawmakers have advanced an $83.6 million emergency funding package to help fight the new coronavirus as Gov. Pete Ricketts sought to assure the public that the state is “well ahead of the curve” compared to others in its response to the global pandemic. The new funding bill sailed through a key procedural vote in the Legislature with no lawmakers dissenting.

Shoppers across Nebraska and the nation are having trouble finding enough toilet paper as they hunker down to avoid the spread of the new coronavirus. But some people in Nebraska are finding it — and stealing it — at Interstate 80 rest stops. The rest areas are managed by the state Transportation Department. A spokeswoman told the Lincoln Journal Star that some are staffed and some are not. The rest areas will be closed as a result of the thefts when an attendant is not present. The spokeswoman says truck parking should remain open even if the rest area buildings are closed.

Public health officials in Omaha have confirmed a second coronavirus case whose origins can't be traced. In addition to that “community spread” case discovered in a 46-year-old man, Douglas County health officials said three other travel-related cases have been confirmed in the Omaha area. The news comes as Nebraska officials scramble to increase the number of tests they can conduct each day. Gov. Pete Ricketts said Wednesday that roughly 500 people have been tested so far. The state now has 28 confirmed cases including 24 in the Omaha area.

Nebraska Health and Human Services says Nebraska residents who were on the Grand Princess cruise ship were flown back to the state yesterday.  They had been quarantined at a military facility after the cruise ship docked off the coast of California because coronavirus cases were identified on the ship.  The state says the individuals will self-quarantine for 14 days and be monitored by their local health department upon returning home.  Meanwhile, Nebraska Medicine says a teen from Crofton who tested positive for the coronavirus and was being treated in a biocontainment unit has been disch

Omaha Public Schools will remain closed indefinitely to help limit the spread of the new coronavirus. The Omaha district had earlier announced plans for temporary closures that would extend spring breaks to about two weeks, but officials said Monday there now isn't a tentative date to resume classes. District administrators said they will evaluate health conditions every two weeks and consult with local and state officials as they determine when to reopen. The move followed Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt's request that schools make plans to cancel classes.

Kearney Hub

Gov. Pete Ricketts has limited public gatherings to 10 people in an effort to keep the coronavirus from spreading, even though it's likely to mean painful economic times and major disruption to people's lives. Ricketts' announcement will force the cancellation of events statewide and many businesses will shut their doors as people hunker down to try to avoid catching COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. He says he was aligning the state with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lincoln Journal Star

Visitors to Nebraska prisons will have to answer questions about their possible exposure to the new coronavirus as part of an effort to keep staff and inmates from getting infected. The Department of Correctional Services says visitors will still be allowed, as long as they are deemed a low risk. But Director Scott Frakes warned that the policy could change quickly. Visitors, volunteers, contractors and others will be asked to confirm that they are symptom-free, verify if they have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 and if they have traveled recently by plane.

Federal courts in Nebraska are nixing all jury trials and grand juries for the rest of the month in a move to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, state courts in Iowa and Nebraska are taking some precautions. An order from Nebraska's Supreme Court chief justice says those at elevated risk of transmitting COVID-19 are barred from attending trials. In Iowa, state courts may conduct meetings and hearings remotely. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.

UPDATE (03-20-20): Three New COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in Douglas County Three travelers are the latest confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Douglas County.  The Health Department (DCHD) reports these three individuals recently returned from areas in the Southeastern United States where COVID-19 is circulating. They are two men in their 40s and a woman in her 30s. These three individuals traveled to different areas and the cases are not connected.

Nebraska lawmakers are set to take a four-day recess, but they may extend the break to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak at the state Capitol. Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer said Thursday that lawmakers were still tentatively planning to reconvene as scheduled on Tuesday, but they may temporarily suspend their session if health officials confirm a community-spread case of the virus in Lincoln during the break.

Nebraska lawmakers have given initial approval to a $9.4 billion, two-year state budget that shovels millions of extra dollars into the state’s rainy-day fund amid fears about the global pandemic caused by the new coronavirus. Lawmakers had already planned to boost the state’s cash-reserve fund after three years of lagging tax collections and tight budgets, but the worldwide panic had many of them warning that the state could face more trouble. The new budget would boost the cash reserve to $731 million by the end of the current two-year budget cycle in June 2022.

Nebraska school officials say they're limiting spectators to the state boys basketball tournament to players' immediate family. That news comes on the heels of two more Nebraska residents testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the Nebraska total to five. A Douglas County woman who recently traveled to California and Nevada was added Tuesday. She's recovering at home. The state's fifth case is a 16-year-old student from Crofton High School in northeast Nebraska who attended the state girls basketball tournament in Lincoln last week.

Supermarket chain Hy-Vee is closing four centers that fulfill online orders in Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, putting several hundred people out of work. Christina Gayman, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement that fulfillment centers couldn't provide the “full assortment of products, personalized shoppers and same-day pickup" that customers wanted.

Nebraska has moved a step closer to creating a new state commission focused on African American affairs, similar to existing groups that represent Latino Americans and Native Americans. The measure won first-round approval in the Legislature Wednesday on a 32-0 vote. The new, 14-member commission would meet quarterly and be allowed to hire an executive director. Commission members would receive $50 a day while performing commission duties, plus expense reimbursement. The bill by Sen.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Health officials say two more Nebraska residents have tested positive for the new coronavirus disease, bringing the Nebraska total to five. A Douglas County woman was added to the list Tuesday. Officials say she had recently traveled to California and Nevada and is recovering at home. State officials say a person from northeast Nebraska will be treated at the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus in Omaha. It's unclear whether the case is travel related or related to any of the other four cases.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has told Bellevue University and other schools that it intends to disapprove the enrollment of new GI Bill students. The VA said Monday the schools have given erroneous, deceptive or misleading information to prospective students. The sanction wouldn't affect current GI Bill students. The university says the VA warning stems from a state allegation that school promotional material misled prospective students about the accreditation status for its Bachelor of Science in nursing program.

Nebraska lawmakers will debate a new bill to lower property taxes as early as next week after a legislative committee endorsed it. Members of the Revenue Committee voted 6-1 in favor of the bill, which would provide roughly the same $520 million boost to Nebraska's K-12 public schools as an earlier proposal that stalled last month. Schools are the biggest consumers of local property tax revenue in Nebraska, and the bill would offer them the additional money along with tighter controls on their ability to tax and spend.

A Republican state lawmaker in Nebraska who has criticized President Donald Trump and accused the GOP of enabling racism has launched a new website to try to change the party's current views on unions, guns and climate change. Sen. John McCollister, of Omaha, unveiled a new website dubbed “Republican Redefined." The website lays out what McCollister describes as conservative arguments for public education, prison reform and a strong social safety net, among other issues. It also highlights Nebraska's one-house, officially nonpartisan Legislature and the senator who fought to create it.

Nebraska lawmakers have taken a major step toward increasing transparency and accountability in state-run juveniles homes following an outbreak of violence, vandalism and escapes. Lawmakers on Tuesday gave initial approval to measures that would require state officials to create a long-term operations plan for how to safely run the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers in Geneva, Kearney and Lincoln.

Nebraska officials are asking dozens of people who attended the Special Olympics basketball tournament last week in Fremont to self-quarantine. A news release Saturday from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says the woman diagnosed with COVID-19 spent most of Feb. 29 at the Fremont Family YMCA, where the tournament was held. Health officials are asking the tournament's players, coaches and team staff members to self-quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms of the virus until March 14.

The Plattsmouth school district in eastern Nebraska has joined schools in Fremont and Hooper in canceling classes as a precaution against the spread of a new virus that originated in China. The district says classes and activities will be canceled Monday through Thursday. Classes already weren’t planned for Friday. The Omaha woman with the state’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 participated in a Special Olympics basketball tournament in Fremont on Feb. 29. Plattsmouth Community Schools said one of its students attended the tournament.

ABC News

Gov. Pete Ricketts is warning that Nebraska could be dealing with the coronavirus outbreak for the next nine to 12 months, and he's urging the public to take precautionary steps to keep it from spreading. Ricketts says the number of known cases in Nebraska has risen to three, but there aren't yet indications that it's spreading within communities. The three people diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, are a 36-year-old Omaha woman and her father and brother.

Rainbow trout will be stocked later this month and in April at lakes and city ponds across the state. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says the trout are about 10 inches in length. The rainbow stockings begin Monday at the Bridgeport State Recreation Area, at Terry's Pit in Terrytown and the Scottsbluff zoo pond. Other stocking points include Auble Pond in Ord, Steinhart Park East Pond in Nebraska City and Such's Lake in Grand Island. For more fishing and stocking information or to purchase a fishing permit, go online at the commission website, outdoornebraska.gov.

Schools in Fremont will be closed for at least a week as a precaution because a woman infected with COVID-19 attended a Special Olympics basketball tournament in the city. Several institutions in Fremont, including Fremont Public Schools, Archbishop Bergan Catholic Schools, Trinity Lutheran School, Midland University and the Fremont Family YMCA, have canceled or postponed all activities and classes. The schools will remain closed at least through Saturday. Health officials say the woman with COVID-19 spent most of Feb. 29 at the YMCA.

Health officials say two family members of an Omaha woman with COVID-19 have now tested positive for the disease. The Douglas County Health Department said the family members with the disease caused by the new coronavirus have been quarantining themselves at home since Friday when the 36-year-old woman was diagnosed. The woman remains hospitalized in the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus. There are now three cases of COVID-19 in Nebraska.

Nebraska has had its first case of coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in a 36-year-old woman who had traveled to the United Kingdom, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Friday.

The woman, who is "very seriously ill," is at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, officials said, and is being transferred to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

State officials say Nebraska's prisons released 45 inmates earlier than they should have because officials failed to apply disciplinary sanctions to their sentences that would have kept them behind bars longer. The Department of Correctional Services acknowledged Thursday that 187 prisoners should have lost so-called “good time" credit for violations of prison policy, but the sanctions weren't properly counted on their sentences. Of that group, 45 have already been released from prison and two of them have since committed low-level misdemeanors when they should have been incarcerated.

A former Nebraska lawmaker and anti-marijuana activist has won confirmation to the state's public health board despite criticism from advocates who are pushing a November ballot measure to legalize the drug for medicinal use. Lawmakers voted 32-3 Thursday to approve John Kuehn for a seat on the 17-member Nebraska Board of Health. Kuehn is a close ally of Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who appointed him to the seat. Both men strongly oppose legalizing marijuana.

Longtime Native American journalist Chuck Trimble has died. Trimble was a former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians and founder of the American Indian Press Association. His daughter, Kaiti Fenz-Trimble, said on Facebook that the Oglala Lakota man died of natural causes this week in Omaha, Nebraska, at age 84. Trimble in the early 1970s founded the American Indian Press Association, which operated a news service for tribal newspapers. He served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1972 to 1978.

State authorities say yet another state prison employee has been arrested on suspicion of unauthorized communication with a prisoner, a felony under state law. A news release from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services says 26-year-old Ashlee Yeackley, a food service worker at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, was arrested Wednesday and taken to the Lancaster County Jail. Officials say Yeackley has been employed by the department since February 2019. The release says she'll be suspended from her job.

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