In a move mirroring other Republican governors, Nebraska’s Governor Pete Ricketts announced easing outbreak restrictions beginning early May. The region specific change in restrictions impacts much of the state, including the Omaha region. On May 4, certain businesses previously forced to close may reopen to serve customers.
Among the businesses allowed to reopen, Ricketts lists restaurants, tattoo parlors, and salons. In addition, restrictions lift on church gatherings to permit regular worship services.
However, the governor also noted social distancing measures remained in effect, even for reopened businesses. The director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Tony Goins, reassured the public. “I want all Nebraskans to know that we are committed to resuming business operations safely and within guidelines,” he said.
For example, restaurants may only serve up to half their dining capacity at a time.
Ricketts cited hospital capacity as a determining factor for his decision. Nebraska still has nearly half its hospital beds, 77 percent of its ventilators, and 42 percent of its intensive care units available. Furthermore, restrictions remain effective in areas experiencing surges, such as Hall County.
Ricketts Decision Criticized
Despite the governor’s confidence in reopening Nebraska’s economy, several spoke out against his easing of restrictions. One state senator, Adam Morfeld, took to Twitter with his concerns.
Morfeld makes a point cited by others concerned with an early reopening, including health experts. Nebraska’s case count continues to rise, unlike other states that saw their peak already.
Additionally, testing fails to provide an accurate portrait of the state’s outbreak. Inadequate numbers of tests keep officials in the dark as to the actual number of cases. It is assumed to be far greater than the present confirmed case count of 3,358 as of Monday evening.
Still, Ricketts insists upon reopening the state’s economy. Meanwhile, health experts continue to warn against easing restrictions too early, which will likely result in resurgence.