State Declines New Virus Rules Despite High Hospitalizations

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FILE - A woman who tested positive with COVID-19 is brought to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, March 6, 2020. The number of virus hospitalizations in Nebraska exceeds the level that was supposed to trigger new restrictions from the state, but Gov. Pete Ricketts said those aren't needed because hospitals are already limiting surgeries to preserve capacity. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

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The number of virus hospitalizations in Nebraska exceeds the level that was supposed to trigger new restrictions from the state, but Gov. Pete Ricketts said those aren’t needed now because hospitals are already limiting surgeries to preserve capacity.

State health officials had said they would issue new Directed Health Measures restricting surgeries when COVID-19 cases filled more that 15% of Nebraska’s hospital beds on average. At the start of this week, that seven-day average stood at 17.3%.

“What we are hearing from nearly all of our hospitals is that they are already postponing non-urgent elective procedures voluntarily, and therefore initiating DHMs at this time is not necessary,” Ricketts said. “However, my administration stands ready to issue DHMs on a case-by-case basis to aid hospitals should they need it.”

The state did issue an order earlier this month ordering the Nebraska Medical Center to restrict surgeries because that hospital started using its crisis plan to ration care after the large number of staff illnesses made it difficult to deal with the surge in hospitalizations. But that is the only place where Ricketts has formally restricted surgeries.

State health officials said 741 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 Wednesday. That is up significantly since late December when 445 people were hospitalized.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 3,161.57 new cases per day on Jan. 11 to 3,780 new cases per day on Tuesday. But that figure had been over 4,000 per day since mid-January, so it has declined slightly this week.

(AP)