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Gov. Ricketts urges fewer restrictions as COVID cases fall

February 17, 2022 GMT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Pete Ricketts said Nebraskans should be allowed to “return to normal” as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to fall in the state.

“Our case counts and hospitalization rates are dropping with each passing day,” Ricketts said in a statement Thursday. “It’s a promising sign that we are moving to endemic stage of COVID. It’s important that we pursue policies that let Nebraskans return to normal while continuing to live with the virus.”

Ricketts’ comments came a day after local health officials eliminated a temporary mask mandate in Omaha that was put in place last month as COVID-19 cases soared.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska continued to fall sharply over the past two weeks, going from 2,027.86 new cases per day on Feb. 1 to 364.43 new cases per day on Feb. 15. That number was consistently above 4,000 from mid January until Jan. 26 during the peak of the surge of the omicron variant of the virus.

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The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus statewide fell to the lowest level since early November this week. The state said 436 people were hospitalized with the virus Tuesday, down from last month’s peak of 767 reached on Jan. 28.

Hospital officials in the state have said they welcome the falling cases, but they remain quite busy with non-COVID patients and they are dealing with ongoing staff shortages and a backlog of surgical procedures that were postponed,