Roll Call

U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska says he has tested positive for COVID-19. Fortenberry says on his congressional website that he had a “moderate case” and will recuperate at home. He says he tested positive despite being vaccinated and taking precautions to avoid getting infected. Fortenberry is running for re-election while facing criminal allegations that he lied to federal authorities who were investigating an illegal contribution to his campaign. He has pleaded not guilty. On Sunday, Nebraska state Sen.

The city of Omaha is planning to distribute 112-million-dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds.   The United Way of the Midlands will distribute 10-million-dollars of the funding to non-profit organizations, while the Omaha Community Foundation will hand out five-million-dollars to non-profits.  Mayor Jean Stothert says the city has already received half of its expected American Rescue Plan Act funding.  Grant committees will decide how the money is distributed, applications will be accepted from February 15th through April 1st and funds will be awarded in June.

Lincoln Journal Star

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is extending its mask mandate as virus cases soar across the state, and all returning students and faculty will be required to take a COVID-19 test at the start of the spring semester. Masks will be required indoors throughout the university’s campuses, including at sporting events. Separately, Omaha police and fire officials announced Wednesday that they will require masks after a virus outbreak among their departments.


Nebraska has held one of the nation's lowest unemployment rates for years, with fewer than two million people and plenty of jobs to go around. That rate has hit new lows thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, with the state announcing the lowest-ever recorded unemployment of 1.8% in November. Now Gov. Pete Ricketts, who frequently expounds on the value of work, is confronting an intriguing question: Can a governor nudge the few citizens who are unemployed back to work, even if they apparently aren’t eager or able to do so?

Survey Warns Of NE Teachers Leaving In Droves

Dec 10, 2021
The Guardian

More than a thousand Nebraska teachers are planning to leave the profession after this school year. The Nebraska State Education Association says that's about a third of the teachers that responded to a survey that highlights the struggle for educators during the pandemic. The association said 64-percent of teachers are more stressed, and 57-percent are working more hours than they did last year. NSEA President Jenni Benson said most teachers are also seeing more mental health concerns among students.


Nebraska football star and 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers remains in an Omaha hospital intensive care unit with COVID-19 and other complications. Business partner Denny Drake told The Omaha World-Herald that Rodgers was hospitalized Thanksgiving morning. Drake says the 70-year-old Rodgers seemed to improve after a few days, but took a turn for the worse last week and was placed in the ICU. Drake says Rodgers has since improved and is feeling much better.

Nebraska health officials say the vast majority of the COVID-19 patients who are filling up the state’s hospitals are unvaccinated and many of them are younger adults. The number of people hospitalized in Nebraska with COVID-19 continues to climb and reached 555 on Tuesday, which was the highest it had been since last winter. Although the number of hospitalizations remains well below last fall’s peak of 987, hospital capacity is strained. That state said just 13% of the adult intensive care unit beds and 20% of the pediatric ICU beds were available Tuesday.


Health officials have shut down a COVID-19 vaccination clinic north of downtown Omaha, citing repeated vandalism at the site of the drive-thru clinic. The Douglas County Health Department announced Friday that it's closing the clinic off Abbott Drive, just north of the CHI Health Center event facility. The department declined to give details about the vandalism, citing an ongoing criminal investigation into the matter. The health department says anyone who had an upcoming appointment at the site for a vaccine will be contacted by staff to reschedule elsewhere.


Nebraska recorded a second straight week of increased COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued to creep up. That prompted the state to resume daily updates on the virus instead of providing only weekly numbers. The state reported 5,104 new virus cases last week to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was up from 4,177 cases during the previous week. Before that, cases had been flat or slightly falling for several weeks. An average of 400 Nebraskans were hospitalized with COVID-19 during the past week, which was up from 386 the previous week.

Nebraska Legislature

A leading Nebraska senator who helps create the state budget says he’s already getting requests for how to spend the state’s share of federal pandemic relief money, and he’s expecting a lot more. Sen. John Stinner, chairman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, says he has spoken with groups including Nebraska’s child welfare and developmental disability service providers. Stinner, of Gering, says the providers are under competitive pressure to keep workers because they aren’t able to pay as much as other employers.

Nationwide Children's Hospital

Health officials in Nebraska say they’re expecting 64,200 initial doses of the coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The allocation is enough to cover nearly 35% of the 186,200 Nebraska children who fall in that age range. Don Herrington, the acting director of the state Department of Health Services, recommends that parents have their children vaccinated against COVID-19. He says pediatric vaccinations will be available in some areas at special vaccination clinics arranged with schools and local health care providers.

Facemask Ordinance In Lincoln Will Last Through November

Oct 27, 2021

A public facemask requirement will remain in effect in Lincoln for another month.  City officials announced yesterday that a Directed Health Measure, which includes the mask requirement, has been extended through November 24th.  The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department says the Directed Health Measure will remain in place as the community focuses on decreasing local COVID-19 case numbers.


Nebraska’s attorney general says he won’t seek disciplinary action against doctors who prescribe controversial, off-label drugs to treat and prevent coronavirus infections, as long as they get informed consent from patients and don’t engage in misconduct. The office of Attorney General Doug Peterson released a legal opinion saying it didn’t see data to justify legal action against health care professionals who prescribe ivermectin, a decades-old parasite treatment, or hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that former President Donald Trump took to try to prevent a COVID-19 infection.

Fremont Tribune

 Officials at the Lincoln Children's Zoo say five big cats tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Zoo officials announced Wednesday that two Sumatran tigers and three snow leopards were tested after they began showing symptoms of the virus during the weekend. Spokeswoman Sarah Wood said in a news release the cats are the first animals at the zoo to contract the virus. They are being treated with plans that have been successful at other zoos.

Fairfield Citizen

Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley has tested positive for the coronavirus. A spokesman says Foley has mild symptoms and is self-isolating as he recovers. He didn’t answer questions about when the lieutenant governor was tested or whether he has been vaccinated. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has been vaccinated and has urged the public to get vaccinated too, but he opposes vaccine requirements. The governor’s office updated Foley’s public schedule to remove all planned events for the week. Foley, a Republican, is a former state auditor and lawmaker from Lincoln.

Doctors who specialize in the care of children say in court documents that the rise of the delta variant and beginning of the school year have dramatically increased the risks children face during the coronavirus pandemic. The American Academy of Pediatrics and its Iowa chapter submitted a brief on Tuesday with the federal court judge who is considering a lawsuit seeking to strike down a state law that prohibits school boards from imposing mask mandates in schools.

Lincoln Extends Mask Mandate Through October

Sep 29, 2021

The city of Lincoln is extending its public mask mandate.  Officials announced yesterday that the Directed Health Measure that includes the mandate will remain in effect until October 28th.  Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez says the mandate is being extended in order to prevent COVID-19 from getting worse by loosening restrictions too soon.

Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen has tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, one day before he was scheduled to announce his re-election bid. A spokeswoman says Evnen has been been fully vaccinated against the virus, and his symptoms are not severe. She says Evnen is working from his home office. Evnen, a Republican, was supposed to hold an in-person campaign event on Monday but abruptly canceled it, citing unforeseen circumstances. His campaign made the announcement in an email. Evnen was first elected in 2018.


The number of new coronavirus cases in Iowa in the past seven days surged 51% compared to the previous week, and new COVID-19 hospital admissions also increased along with the number of patients requiring intensive care. The Iowa Department of Public Health reported Wednesday there were 11,588 new positive cases in the past seven days. Another 64 deaths raised the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Iowa to 6,401. Iowa’s seven-day moving average of cases is at 1,487 new cases per day, a level not seen since the middle of last January.

Siouxland News

Iowa will use federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for a $3.7 million national ad campaign that promotes the state as a destination for visitors and workers. The 30-second ad funded by the American Rescue Plan is part of a larger “This Is Iowa” promotional campaign. It will air on cable television, online on social media sites and through streaming services this week. Gov. Kim Reynolds says the ad campaign supports state efforts to attract new residents and train existing workers to fill a growing number of high-demand job openings.


Governor Ricketts is voicing his opposition to President Biden's new vaccine mandates. In a statement, Ricketts called the mandates a "stunning violation of personal freedom," and said individuals are responsible for taking charge of their personal health. The president announced an executive order yesterday requiring vaccinations for federal workers and businesses with more than 100 employees. Those who do not get vaccinated will be subject to weekly testing. The governor said he is working with the Attorney General to explore legal options to fight the mandate.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Nebraska has increased in each of the past ten weeks, and the total nearly doubled over the past two weeks as the highly contagious delta variant of the virus continues to spread. Nebraska reported 5,006 new cases for the week ending Friday, according to an Omaha World-Herald analysis of data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 3,755 the previous week and nearly double the 2,668 cases recorded the week before.


Renters across the Omaha metro are no longer protected by the CDC eviction moratorium. The Supreme Court ruled that the CDC does not have the authority to issue an eviction moratorium without congressional approval. There are still millions of dollars in federal rental assistance available through the City of Omaha. Executive Director of  the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless [MACCH] Randy McCoy says the funds will help landlords offer alternatives to eviction.


Nebraska’s hospitals are even more crowded now than they were at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in November. That prompted Gov. Pete Ricketts to announce a “staffing emergency” Thursday to try to address a severe shortage of health care workers. The state’s hospitals were treating a 3,162 patients as of Wednesday, up from 3,074 on Nov. 20, when the number of known cases was at its all-time high. Most of the recent hospitalizations aren’t virus-related, however. Ricketts says the increase was driven by patients seeking treatment for other medical problems.

The Today Show

Students and staff at Ralston’s middle school and high schools in suburban Omaha are now required to wear masks following new cases of COVID-19 in the district. Ralston Public Schools announced the change Sunday, saying the policy applies to staff members and students from seventh- through 12th grades. Masking will be required through Sept. 16, when district officials will review the policy. Masks will be available at the schools for students who do not have one. Superintendent Mark Adler says the decision was made after three cases were identified in one classroom at the secondary level.

NE Football Program Under NCAA Investigation

Aug 19, 2021
The Athletic

The NCAA is investigating the University of Nebraska football program.  The Nebraska football program is accused of using analysts and consultants during practices and games. The program is also accused of holding football practices during the pandemic, when the NCAA prohibited them. Sources at the school say there is video footage confirming the violations. The Nebraska AD confirmed the investigation yesterday.

The number of virus cases and hospitalizations across Nebraska has steadily increased in recent weeks as the highly contagious delta variant spreads, following the pattern of other states with relatively low vaccination rates. Nebraska said Wednesday that 2,575 new virus cases were reported in the past week, which is up from 1,976 the week before and more than 10 times higher than the 253 cases a week the state was reporting in late June when officials lifted the last of Nebraska’s remaining virus-related restrictions.

NE Colleges/Tyson Foods All Insist On Full Vaccination

Aug 4, 2021
The Wall Street Journal

Three colleges in Nebraska are requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccine.  Doane University is asking students to have their second dose of the vaccine by September 9th.  Nebraska Wesleyan University is requiring students to be fully vaccinated by August 15th, and Creighton University is requiring all students to be fully vaccinated in order to return to campus.  The vaccination requirements come as the number of new delta variant cases increases. Meanwhile, Tyson Foods will require all U.S.


An unusual influx of cash will allow Lancaster County lower its property tax levy, officials said. The county has more more money than usual thanks to federal pandemic aid, a large carry-over of money from this year’s budget and a total revaluation of property in the county. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that most of that money won’t be used in the county’s $128.5 million general fund budget, which is supported by property taxes, but officials still plan to lower the tax levy by 1 cent per $100 of valuation. The general fund budget will increase by about $5.1 million.

The Reader

Thousands of Nebraskans who are behind on their rent could face eviction now that the federal ban on evictions expired as of Saturday. Nebraska has dedicated $200 million from the coronavirus aid package Congress passed in December to helping people pay outstanding rent and utility bills, but so far only about $24.6 million has been distributed. Scott Mertz, an attorney with Legal Aid of Nebraska, says the number of evictions is expected to surge following the end of the moratorium, but it’s not clear by how much.