Gov. Ricketts easing virus restrictions in Nebraska

June 15, 2020 GMT
Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, May 1, 2020. Expanded testing for COVID-19 will start on Monday in Omaha and Grand Island. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, May 1, 2020. Expanded testing for COVID-19 will start on Monday in Omaha and Grand Island. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, May 1, 2020. Expanded testing for COVID-19 will start on Monday in Omaha and Grand Island. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, May 1, 2020. Expanded testing for COVID-19 will start on Monday in Omaha and Grand Island. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, May 1, 2020. Expanded testing for COVID-19 will start on Monday in Omaha and Grand Island. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska bars, restaurants and other venues will soon be able to allow more people inside under relaxed rules Gov. Pete Ricketts outlined.

The new rules take effect next Monday across 89 of the state’s 93 counties. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to use their full capacity as long as establishments practice social distancing and ensure additional hygiene practices. And gatherings of up to 10,000 people will be allowed as long as indoor venues remain at 50% of their capacity and outdoor venues limit attendance to 75% of their capacity.

Ricketts said Monday that the data on hospital capacity and illnesses across the state supports further easing the restrictions. Hospital capacity remained steady Monday, with 43% of the state’s hospital beds, 53% of its intensive care unit beds and 76% of its respirators available for use.

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“We’ve got robust hospital capacity in the state today to be able to take care of people. And that’s what we’re focused on,” Ricketts said.

Currently, restaurants and bars are limited to half their capacity. The new rules will also allow groups of eight people to be seated together, up from the current limit of six people.

Starting next week, gyms, salons, massage parlors and tattoo businesses will be allowed to operate at 75% capacity although masks will be required at most of those businesses.

Child care facilities will also be allowed to increase the number of kids per room starting next week. And the remaining restrictions on elective surgeries will be lifted.

But the relaxed state rules will continue to prohibit most parades, carnivals, street dances and beer gardens.

In four counties that have been hit hard by the virus — Hall, Merrick, Hamilton and Dakota counties — the restrictions will also be relaxed Monday but not as much as in the rest of the state.

State officials also announced that schools are expected to reopen in the fall with students back in classrooms although many details of those plans are still being worked out.

“Our expectation is that they will have in-person learning this fall,” Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said.

State health officials said Monday that four more COVID-19 deaths were reported over the weekend, bringing the state’s total to 216. The state’s online coronavirus tracke r also showed a jump in cases confirmed over the weekend, including 120 new cases on Saturday and 92 new cases on Sunday, to take the state’s total to 16,725.

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For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

The new cases were reported as coronavirus cases have been rising in states across the U.S.