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Nebraska marks fourth straight week of slow decline in COVID cases, hospitalizations
Lincoln Journal Star, Julie Anderson and Henry J. CordesOctober 26, 2021

Nebraska marked its fourth straight week of a slow decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations last week, with the state’s numbers continuing to descend from this summer’s delta plateau.

The state recorded 3,756 new cases for the week ending Thursday, down 9% from 4,144 cases the week before, according to a World-Herald analysis of federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That’s down from the 5,300 weekly cases the state saw this summer.

Total hospitalizations because of COVID were down to 361 from 398 the previous week. The decline caused Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts to announce last week that the state would scale back its release of COVID-19 data, updating the information weekly rather than daily and not including county-specific data.

The Governor’s Office said in a press release at the time that the change was being made because hospitalizations due to the coronavirus have dropped below 10% of the state’s total staffed hospital beds, a threshold Ricketts set in September.

Nebraska Chamber of Commerce President Bryan Slone released a statement in support of businesses choosing how to implement vaccinations in their workplaces. Slone said he’s against the federal government mandating vaccinations for federal workers and larger businesses. He’s also against states banning mandates altogether — an idea recently proposed by Governor Pete Ricketts. Nebraska Public Media News’ Jackie Ourada spoke with Slone on his announcement on mandates.

Jackie Ourada, Nebraska Public Media: Why is the Nebraska Chamber speaking on this now?

Bryan Slone, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce President: I think there’s really two things going on at the same time that we were trying to respond to today. One is the administration did indicate that it was going to come out with an OSHA rule with a vaccine mandate. The details of that are still not out and are likely to come fairly soon. And so this was in response to what we believe will be the details of that mandate, and we’ll certainly take a look at those. But the other piece of it is, you’re starting to see some states take a look at legislation which would prohibit the implementation of vaccine mandates and indeed, we had over 20 senators this week, state senators, sign a letter proposing to have a special session to at least discuss that possibility in the state of Nebraska. So you really have two things going on at once: an administration about to release a potential nationwide employer vaccine mandate rule for at least medium and large-sized employers, and then the potential of the state — at least an interest by a number of senators and having a discussion in the legislature — about whether to prohibit such mandates at a state level.

Ourada: In your initial statement you said there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. How do you see such vaccination mandates hurting businesses? And what would your ideal vaccination solution be?

Ricketts says Nebraska is bringing back COVID dashboard
Omaha World-Herald, Martha Stoddard , Henry J. CordesOctober 20, 2021

LINCOLN — With hospitalizations rising and some hospitals increasingly stretched to the limit, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday signed an order reinstating the state’s online COVID-19 information dashboard.
Health care officials applauded the move, saying it will make it easier to plan for and manage local outbreaks.

“You can’t make good decisions without good data,” said Dr. Bob Rauner, president of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln.

New daily hospitalizations in Nebraska rose more than 20% last week to 50 per day, according to figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, an average of nearly 400 hospital beds were occupied by COVID patients on any given day last week

At a Monday press conference, Ricketts said state officials are bringing back the dashboard because COVID hospitalizations have topped 10% of the state’s total staffed hospital beds. Ricketts said the dashboard would be dropped again if the percentage drops below 10%.

A new COVID-19 variant is making its way across the U.S., but Nebraska is the only state yet to report a case of the mu variant.

“Undoubtedly, we have this variant in Nebraska, even though it hasn’t been formally defined,” said Dr. Mark Rupp of Nebraska Medicine.

The mu variant was first identified in Columbia, and at this point, it’s unclear just how much of a threat the variant may become.

“It really has not been demonstrated whether this particular variant has the ability to be transmitted more easily from person to person,” said Dr. Rupp. “Or, whether the strain results in disease that is more severe, or escapes our immunological protections.”

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