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pandemic

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.

Covid Emergency Remains In Effect For Lincoln

Mar 16, 2021
Lincoln Journal Star

The city of Lincoln's COVID emergency declaration is staying in place.  City council members voted six-to-one yesterday against a motion to end the emergency.   Lincoln's emergency declaration has been in effect since March 2020, and supporters say it allows cities to get resources including personal protective equipment and reimbursement from the federal governor in a shorter period of time.

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.

Covid Variants Now Confirmed In NE

Mar 10, 2021
NBC

Nebraska health officials continue to identify more cases of different variants of the coronavirus in the state. The state said Monday that five cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom and 14 cases of a variant first identified in California have now been confirmed. Both of those variants of the virus are believed to be more easily transmitted. State officials said they expect to receive 82,430 doses of the vaccines this week.

Loessfest Cancelled Again

Mar 9, 2021
loessfest.com

An annual celebration in Council Bluffs is cancelled for the second year in a row.  City officials have announced that the Loessfest celebration has been called off again.  Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh says the event was cancelled because officials weren't sure where the city would be by Memorial Day of this year, and acts must be booked several months in advance.  Loessfest has been held at Council Bluffs' River's Edge Park since 2013. 

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. 

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.

NIFA

Nebraska has launched a federally funded aid program for renters and landlords who have lost income due to the pandemic, but residents of the state’s two largest counties won’t be eligible. The program managed by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority offers a maximum of 15 months of rental or mortgage assistance per applicant, up to $20,000. State officials say it’s only available to tenants who make 80% or less of their county’s median income, and who can show they’re unable to pay rent because of a financial hardship caused by the pandemic or they’re at risk of becoming homeless.

Omaha World Herald

The coronavirus has devastated many types of businesses, and a new study in Nebraska shows just how hard the pandemic has hit child care centers. The Scottsbluff Star-Herald cited a new legislative study that found 231 licensed child care providers in the state have closed permanently since the pandemic began. Hundreds more shuttered temporarily, and more than half of operators say they will close permanently without further government financial assistance. Nebraska ranks highest in the nation for households with children where both parents work. 

NPR

Some coronavirus vaccination events have been canceled across Nebraska because winter weather delayed vaccine shipments. Health officials in Beatrice and Hastings canceled vaccination appointments that were scheduled for this week. The West Central District Health Department in North Platte said it has enough vaccine on hand for the appointments it has scheduled this week, but it may have to delay next week’s vaccination clinics because of the shipment delays. The state estimated that 6.5% of Nebraska’s population has now received both required doses of the vaccine.

A number of Nebraska school districts are planning to expand summer school sessions and offer other additional help to students who fell behind because if the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Nebraska’s largest school districts said that between a quarter and one-third of high school students attending classes remotely failed two or more classes last semester. That failure rate is significantly higher than it was before the pandemic.

ABC News

Nebraska should see at least 43 retail pharmacies participating in a new federal program to help provide coronavirus vaccinations, although state officials say they don’t have a good way to communicate with all of them to avoid mistakes. Gov. Pete Ricketts says he’s grateful for the additional 5,700 doses Nebraska will get through the federal program, but is concerned about how all the different businesses will coordinate with the state’s efforts. He says the federal program didn’t include a way for states and the retailers to ensure they’re on the same page. 

WOWT

Nebraska officials expect nearly 70,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines to be available in the state this week as they continue to work to distribute more shots. The state said 69,600 vaccine doses total should be released in Nebraska this week, up from 61,750 a week ago. Most of those vaccines are being distributed through local health departments, but nearly 6,000 doses will go to a new program that is just getting started to distribute vaccines directly through some retail pharmacies.

KMEG

More than 54,000 people signed up for a coronavirus vaccine on the day that Nebraska’s new registration website went live, and state officials are seeking to assure residents that the elderly and vulnerable will still get priority. Officials with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services say the website’s launch on Thursday went smoothly. Nebraska residents can register for a vaccination at vaccinate.ne.gov.

KITV

Governor Pete Ricketts announced on Saturday that Nebraska is moving from the blue phase to the green phase in the state's pandemic response plan. This means indoor gatherings can now reach one-hundred-percent capacity, but events with more than 500 people must write a reopening plan and send it to their local health department. The governor also said any Nebraskans who have been given both doses of the COVID vaccine no longer have to quarantine after a close contact exposure. These residents are asked to self-monitor for symptoms and wear a mask for two weeks.

Pandemic Leads To Split 2021 Swim Trials

Jan 27, 2021
Omaha Sports Commission

The U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha this summer will be split in half due to COVID-19.  USA Swimming says Wave 1 will be on June 4th through the 7th and Wave 2 on June 13th through the 20th.  The organization says Wave 2 will be the sole qualifier for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.  USA Swimming says the decision was made to reduce overcrowding in the arena and to provide a safer environment for the athletes. 

Lincoln Journal Star

Gov. Pete Ricketts is defending Nebraska’s approach to distributing coronavirus vaccines, saying the state won’t redirect doses away from rural areas that are outpacing Omaha and Lincoln with vaccinations. State officials reported Friday that 15 rural public health districts in Nebraska have already finished the first phase of vaccinations, which focused on front-line health workers. Those districts are now vaccinating the next high-priority group, consisting largely of residents who are at least 65 years old.

Lincoln Journal Star

A mass vaccination event in Lincoln that helped Nebraska record one of its most productive days in its campaign to distribute shots could serve as a model for future events. Health officials in Lincoln said roughly 2,400 health care workers received the vaccine Friday at the event held at the Pinnacle Bank Arena. That helped the state administer 8,701 doses of the vaccine on Friday in what was the second-busiest day of the campaign so far. The state has been averaging about 4,500 shots a day over the past two weeks as it works to speed up distribution of the vaccine. 

Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska’s chief Supreme Court justice says the courts faced a big challenge due to the coronavirus pandemic but continue to serve the public with the use of technology. Justice Michael Heavican says the pandemic has forced courts to turn to livestreaming and video chatting services to keep proceedings accessible. Heavican says the court’s online payment systems allowed residents to pay traffic tickets and court fines without leaving their homes, and the judiciary also offers an online education system to help judges, lawyers, guardians and others meet continuous education requirements.

Nebraska.gov

A new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus that has been discovered in five states is probably in Nebraska as well, but officials say they haven’t yet confirmed its presence. Dr. Gary Anthone says the new strain is concerning because it could lead to an increase in hospitalizations in Nebraska. Anthone says the state’s public health lab is purchasing its own equipment to test for the mutated virus. The new strain has led to a national lockdown in England, and the virus has been detected in California, Florida, New York, Georgia, and neighboring Colorado. 

No Vaccine For Undocumented Meat Packers, Says Ricketts

Jan 6, 2021
WOWT

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is saying only documented workers in meatpacking plants will get the COVID-19 vaccine.  Ricketts says people who work in the plants are supposed to be in the U.S. legally, and there will be no conflict since people need to be in the country legally to work in the food-processing program.  UFCW Local 293 officials tell WOWT that there are plenty of undocumented workers employed in the state's meatpacking plants, and that the best way to keep the plants running is to vaccinate everyone. 

Brushbuck Wildlife Tours

Officials in central Nebraska are worried that next spring’s sandhill crane viewing season will be disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic just like this year’s was and hurt the area’s economy. The annual migration of sandhill cranes across central Nebraska normally draws thousands of visitors to the area who want to see the birds gather along the Platte River in the midst of their annual migration. Kearney Visitor Bureau Executive Director Roger Jasnoch told the Kearney Hub that there is little demand for the hotel rooms in the area that visitors normally fill.   

KWWL

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is urging everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine when it's available to them, after receiving her first dose over the weekend. The senator posted a series of tweets showing her getting vaccinated and saying that with the vaccine, we are one step closer to defeating the virus. She added that everyone should continue wearing masks, practice social distancing and continue to follow other protocols put in place to protect one another.

Omaha World Herald

Douglas County plans to spend $10 million in federal coronavirus aid on its new justice center complex. The county's board approved the expenditure Tuesday after hearing hours of debate. The $10 million will pay for additional costs for the center, which has an estimated $120 million price tag. Opponents say the federal funds should be used to to fight the coronavirus pandemic, not on the justice center project. Douglas County received $166 million in CARES Act money for certain COVID-19 relief expenses.

ACLU of Nebraska

Even as a vaccine began trickling out to states this week, Nebraska's prisons continue to struggle with the spread of the coronavirus. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services says 18 staff members across the state's prison system have tested positive for the virus since the end of last week. On Saturday, the department said 11 staffers had tested positive. Another three infected staffers were announced Sunday, and late Monday, the department said four more staffers had tested positive.

Financial Times

Nebraska has received its first shipments of the new coronavirus vaccine and expects to get more than 100,000 doses this month to treat front-line health care workers. Dr. Gary Anthone, Nebraska’s chief medical officer, says the initial shipments had arrived at two hospitals as of mid-morning Monday. State officials expected to get all 15,600 of the first week's doses in the coming 48 hours. Nebraska’s distribution plan calls for the first vaccine doses to go to front-line health workers and other key professions, including meatpacking workers and teachers. Gov.

Freightwaves

Nebraska reported its smallest number of new virus cases since early November on Saturday as the state prepares for the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine to arrive. The state said 811 new virus cases were reported Saturday to give the state a total of 147,688 cases since the pandemic began. That marked the first time since Nov. 2 that the daily tally of new cases was below 1,000. Nebraska said 711 people were hospitalized with the virus on Saturday, which was down from 759 the day before.

KSLA

Cities in Nebraska juggle the issue of whether to require masks as the state's governor continues to resist issuing a statewide mask mandate while the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on the state. Grand Island police have made clear they'll enforce that city's mandate, passed last week, by charging violators with public nuisance counts. A surge in cases in recent weeks led Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts to reissue some statewide restrictions, including requiring masks in salons and tattoo parlors. But Ricketts has refused to impose a statewide mask mandate.

KOLN

Nebraska has passed the grim milestone of 1,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus, and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 remains high in the state. Officials reported 29 new deaths Monday to give the state 1,018 total since the pandemic began. The state also reported 1,941 new cases of the virus to push the total up to 128,407. The number of people being treated for the virus in hospitals grew Monday to 907 from the previous day’s 896. That remains below the record of 987 that was set on Nov. 20, but the total is four times higher than it was two months ago. 

CNBC

Gov. Pete Ricketts is extending Nebraska’s current coronavirus restrictions through December as the number of residents hospitalized with the virus dipped below 900 for the first time in more than two weeks. The current restrictions require masks in certain businesses, such as salons and tattoo parlors, where it’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance between people. They had been set to expire Monday. Despite the decline in hospitalizations, hospitals remained strained across the state.

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