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The number of coronavirus cases in Nebraska is continuing to increase. Through yesterday, there had been 86-hundred-92 cases and 103 deaths reported in Nebraska during the pandemic. Douglas County leads the state with 16-hundred-68 cases while Hall and Dakota counties have each reported more than 13-hundred cases.

The YMCA of Greater Omaha is reopening some facilities soon, starting with those in Iowa. Metro YMCA  said both the Charles E. Lakin YMCA in Council Bluffs, and the Mills County YMCA in Glenwood will open next Monday, and all Nebraska YMCA facilities including Armbrust, Southwest, Butler-Gast, Maple Street, Downtown, Sarpy, and Twin Rivers are tentatively scheduled to open June 1st. The Y said like most businesses, reopening will look differently than pre-coronavirus operations and members should expect to follow safety guidelines when they return.

Nebraska is holding the nation’s first in-person primary since a heavily criticized election in Wisconsin five weeks ago in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Election officials have repeatedly urged voters to cast early, mail-in ballots, but Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State Bob Evnen both pledged to forge ahead with an in-person primary even though many other states have rescheduled theirs or switched to all-mail voting.

It looks like scooters will be back on the streets of Omaha this summer, unless the coronavirus keeps them away. The city announced Thursday that two companies, Spin and Bird, signed up for the second year of the city’s pilot program. Unless the pandemic prompts the city to stop the program, scooters will return in June and remain until November. Across the U.S., scooters have proven popular with riders, but led to several accidents. The city said that for 2020, scooter companies must provide assurance that that they can slow down and stop.

Nebraska is continuing to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. The total number of cases in Nebraska was 83-hundred-15 as of last night.  Ninety-eight COVID-19 related deaths have been reported in Nebraska during the pandemic. Two more deaths have been confirmed in Douglas County. The Douglas County Health Department announced yesterday that a woman in her 50s and a man in his 80s died from the virus.  Twenty coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in Douglas County, which also leads the state with more than 15-hundred cases.

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha says it will need to furlough employees and eliminate positions because of a loss in revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials say the zoo's budget needs to be cut by 36-percent due to a projected loss of more than 26-million dollars. The zoo has been closed since March 16th.

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird says Lancaster County will begin easing COVID-19 restrictions on Monday. The mayor says a new Directed Health Measure will match guidelines set by Governor Ricketts earlier this week, including allowing restaurants to reopen indoor dining rooms at 50-percent capacity. Services including beauty salons and tattoo parlors can also open as long as they follow safety restrictions put out by the state. Baird said she asked the state to extend the current order past May Eleventh, but decided to keep Lincoln in line with the governor's guidelines.

State health officials announced five additional deaths related to COVID-19 in Nebraska yesterday. There are now 90 total deaths from the virus in the state, and seven-thousand-190 total cases. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says 47-percent of hospital beds and 75-percent of ventilators are still available. Governor Pete Ricketts says nearly one of every six cases of COVID-19 in Nebraska are meatpacking workers. The governor says more than one-thousand coronavirus patients are employees at food processing plants, but declined to say where the cases were found.

The "Nebraska Promise" tuition assistance program for the University of Nebraska system has been launched.  And with that, the University of Nebraska Omaha has also launched some of its own financial assistance programs to give students of many situations the opportunity to start, continue, or finish their undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Dr. Jeffrey Gold, Chancellor at UNO, took time out of his schedule to chat with Mike Hogan "Live & Local" about these programs, about the current state of the pandemic, and what he believes the future holds for Omaha and the state as a whole.

Nebraska has officially dispatched more National Guard members to respond to the coronavirus pandemic than it did during last year’s record-setting, statewide floods. Gov. Pete Ricketts says 393 Nebraska National Guard soldiers and airmen have been working on the state’s pandemic response, more than the 329 that were mobilized to help with the historic 2019 floods. The Guard has established six mobile testing teams that have worked in 29 different Nebraska cities, including the hard-hit areas of the state, where they’ve helped public health officials administer coronavirus tests.

The Omaha farmer's market is announcing new locations for the first weekend in June. On Saturday the farmer's market will be on the top level of the Old Market City Parking Garage, and Sunday it will be in the Baxter Arena Parking Lot across from the Aksarben [[ahk-sar-ben]] Village.  Organizers said the markets will follow social distancing guidelines and vendors will be spaced ten feet from one another's booths. The market is also only allowing locally grown produce and pre-packaged food to be sold.

In case you missed the broadcast of the two part "Live & Local" interview with Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan, both parts are available below.  During the interview, KIOS' Mike Hogan was able to chat with the OPS leader about the current status of school and what the future holds for the students and teachers.  

Nebraska has opened a new lab to analyze the results of about 3,000 coronavirus tests per day and will launch more testing sites beyond the ones currently operating in Omaha and hard-hit Grand Island. CHI Health St. Elizabeth in Lincoln will serve as the state’s new lab under the TestNebraska program, which state officials launched through a contract with a Utah startup. Gov. Pete Ricketts says the lab will greatly expand the state's testing capacity. Nebraska officials want to conduct more tests to get a better sense of where the coronavirus is and how quickly it’s spreading.

The attorneys general for 11 Midwestern states have urged the Justice Department to investigate market concentration and potential price fixing by meatpackers in the cattle industry during the coronavirus pandemic. The state attorneys general wrote in a letter dated Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General William Barr that the concentrated market structure of the beef industry makes it particularly susceptible to market manipulation, particularly during times of food insecurity, such as the current COVID-19 crisis.

Nebraska relaxed some of its social-distancing restrictions in the Omaha area and more than half of the state’s counties, but Gov. Pete Ricketts is imploring people who are still living in more heavily regulated areas to stay put. Ricketts is asking residents in hard-hit areas, such as Grand Island and Dakota City, not to venture out of their regions out of concern that they might spread the coronavirus. Unlike many other states, Ricketts has imposed public safety restrictions in Nebraska on a regional basis.

Grand Island Independent

The coronavirus is devastating the nation’s meatpacking communities — places like Waterloo and Sioux City in Iowa, Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota. Within weeks, the outbreaks around slaughterhouses have turned into full-scale disasters. The virus is killing, sickening and frightening workers and devastating their extended families. In Grand Island, an outbreak linked to a JBS beef plant that is the city’s largest employer spread rapidly across the rural central Nebraska region. It killed more than three dozen people.

There are now more than six-thousand COVID-19 cases in Nebraska.  As of yesterday, six-thousand-83 cases and 78 deaths had been reported in the state.  Hall County continues to lead the state with 12-hundred-81 COVID-19 cases, while Douglas County has reported 944 cases and Dakota County has confirmed 938 cases.

Investor Warren Buffett doesn’t know how the economy will recover from the coronavirus outbreak shutdown, but he remains optimistic in the long-term future of the United States. Buffett said Saturday at Berkshire Hathaway’s online annual meeting that there’s no way to predict the economic future right now because the possibilities are still too varied. Berkshire’s meeting was being held without any of the roughly 40,000 shareholders who typically attend. Instead of answering questions in a packed arena filled with shareholders, Buffett spoke in front of a camera for the online meeting.

Officials in Nebraska are forging ahead with plans for the state’s May 12 primary despite calls from Democrats to only offer voting by mail and concerns from public health officials that in-person voting will help the coronavirus spread. Top Republican officials in the GOP-dominated state have repeatedly urged voters to cast early, absentee ballots, but they argue that voters must have the option of voting in-person.

The number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Nebraska.  As of last night, there were 56-hundred-59 cases and 78 deaths reported statewide.  Hall County leads the state with 12-hundred-56 coronavirus cases, Dakota County has seen 918 cases and Douglas County has reported 878 cases.

Labor Union Takes Aim At State/Financial Firm Partnership

May 1, 2020

A partnership between the state and a financial services company is being criticized by a state labor union. The Nebraska Association of Public Employees is accusing Nelnet of profiting off the coronavirus pandemic and paying its employees higher than state employees. The partnership was started to help Nebraska handle an overwhelming number of unemployment claims amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor's office said the contract with Nelnet includes additional supervision, organization, infrastructure, and technology.

Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele is asking U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to visit the city following President Trump's executive order that requires meat processing plants to stay open. The mayor said he wants to explain to Secretary Perdue the problems the city has faced with government orders that have failed to protect the people of Grand Island. There are one-thousand-25 cases of COVID-19 in Hall County, including more than 200 tied to a JBS meat-packing plant.

State health officials reported 497 new cases of COVID-19 in Nebraska yesterday. There are now four-thousand-281 cases of the virus across the state, including one-thousand-25 in Hall County. Nebraska state health officials say the state has seen a jump in COVID-19 deaths following technical difficulties with the state's coronavirus tracking portal in recent days. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says the state saw 3 new deaths from the virus yesterday, bringing the state total to 71. Eight of the deaths were reported out of hard-hit Hall County.

Lincoln Public Schools has announced it will pay $80,000 to provide Wi-Fi hotspots for students without internet access at home who are now having to learn remotely as schools have closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Lincoln Journal Star says the district is paying AT&T Mobility Holdings for the two months of data through 1,000 phones provided by the company at no cost. LPS chief technology officer Kirk Langer says the phones will provide up to 100 gigabytes of data a month to allow students to access Google Classroom through their school-provided laptops.

Child Care Provider At Offut Tests Positive For Covid-19

Apr 30, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting Offutt Air Force Base. The base's 55th Wing has closed the Child Development Center near the Rising View housing area. The center was closed after a child care provider tested positive for the coronavirus.  Officials say the child care provider had been in contact with other employees and children at the facility.

Governor Updates Directed Health Measures

Apr 30, 2020

(Lincoln, NE)  --  Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is announcing updates to Directed Health Measures.  Douglas, Cass, Sarpy and several other counties will have relaxed Directed Health Measure guidelines for restaurants starting May 4th.  The changes call for restaurants to have 50-percent capacity, no bar seating, no buffets and no salad bars.  Customers can only consume alcohol with a meal, and no more than six people can be seated at a table.

Iowa Catholic Churches To Continue Suspension Of Services

Apr 29, 2020

Iowa's Catholic churches will continue the suspension of in-person worship, despite a lifting of COVID-19 coronavirus service restrictions.  The state's four Catholic bishops issued a joint statement this week, saying they were surprised at Governor Kim Reynolds' decision.  Even so, churches will be allowed to gather again starting May 1st.

Nebraska farmers are debating a gut-wrenching decision to euthanize livestock as more meat processing plants shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A past president of the National Pork Board says the situation for hog farmers is dire both economically and emotionally. One Hartington farmer says he's already made his decision and began euthanizing between five and six-hundred heads of pig per week because of the closure at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls.

Omaha World Herald

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is promising to boost his coronavirus outreach efforts to the town of Crete, the state’s newest coronavirus hot spot where cases have surged and local meatpacking workers staged a brief, impromptu walkout out of fear for their own safety. About 50 workers at the Smithfield Foods pork plant walked off the job after company officials announced that the facility would remain open, just hours after they had said it would close to contain an outbreak.

Gov. Pete Ricketts is defended his decision to ease social-distancing restrictions in some parts of Nebraska even though the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has surged in the last few days. Ricketts announced Friday that he was relaxing rules for businesses such as restaurants, salons and tattoo parlors in certain regions of Nebraska and allowing all churches to resume in-person services as long as they follow new safety rules. During his weekday news conference on Monday, Ricketts used a highway speed-limit analogy to describe his thinking.

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