Rodeo Crowd

Crowds are once again gathering maskless for events such as the Pony Express Rodeo, as Gov. Ricketts encourages the state to get back to normal.

On Monday, June 28 Governor Pete Ricketts held a press conference to announce the end of Nebraska’s coronavirus state of emergency. The Governor issued the state of emergency declaration on March 13, 2020. It officially ended at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

Gov. Ricketts also announced that the Test Nebraska program will conclude by the end of July. The last day specimens are to be collected through Test Nebraska sites will be July 18. Additionally, the Governor stated his expectation that all schools in Nebraska will return to in-person instruction in the fall, will not require anyone (even if unvaccinated) to wear masks, and will not mandate the vaccine at all.

During the press conference, Gov. Ricketts praised Nebraskans for their actions during the pandemic. Nebraska ranks among the best states in the nation for its low fatality rate from the virus, for getting kids back in school, and for protecting livelihoods, the governor noted.

With a few exceptions, the coronavirus executive orders will expire on July 30, which is 30 days after the state of emergency ends. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services ended its coronavirus dashboard on June 30. Any needed future updates regarding coronavirus will be provided in news releases and through other means.

Locally we have seen things returning to normal as well. Masks are no longer required in businesses or at public meetings such as City Council and Board of Education. We have been able to gather for events once again, a luxury we may have once taken for granted. Despite the heat the grandstands were full at the Pony Express Rodeo, and more than 10,000 people are expected to fill Lake Helen in late August for the Livin’ Out Loud concert event.

Some of the last places to return to “normal” are those with the most vulnerable people - nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and medical facilities. Scott Bahe, Administrator of Hilltop Estates Nursing Home in Gothenburg, explained that rules and regulations governing facilities like his are more stringent that in other sectors, for the safety of the residents.

“Due to the increase in positivity rates following the spread of the Delta and Gamma variants, visitation remains by appointment for visitors to skilled nursing facilities in general, including Hilltop Estates,” Bahe explained. “The CDC and DHHS require us to monitor the number and wellbeing of visitors in the building at any one time. This same instruction is given to skilled nursing facilities nationwide. Our environment, and thus regulatory guidance, is very different from assisted living facilities, hospitals, and medical clinics.”

Bahe said the staff at Hilltop Estates continues to maintain the core principles of Covid infection prevention, including wearing masks, frequent hand washing and sanitizing and socially distancing. He said his staff has also been very responsible about getting vaccinated and going the extra mile to protect those they care for.

“The Hilltop staff vaccination rate has successfully been achieved at nearly two times the national average of vaccinated staff in all nursing facilities and in the general public as well. We have been very successful in this area.

“Our success in keeping COVID-19 out of the facility is due to the guidance given to us by the CDC and DHHS but especially the diligence and hard work that our staff continues to put into their daily tasks,” Bahe continued. “We look forward to visitors but please call and schedule a visit with one of our patients.”

The pandemic forced some closures of businesses, at least temporarily, and many of those are now in the process of trying to get back to business as usual. The restaurant/bar industry was perhaps one of the hardest hit and in an effort to help those business owners the Small Business Administration launched the Restaurant Revitalization Fund program, signed into law by President Joe Biden as part of the American Rescue Plan.

“The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund provided desperately needed relief to more than 100,000 restaurants and other food and beverage businesses across the nation with significant funding going to our hardest-hit, underserved businesses,” said SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman in a press release last week.

As of June 30, 2021, the RRF program received more than 278,000 submitted eligible applications representing over $72.2 billion in requested funds, and approximately 101,000 applicants have been approved to restaurants, bars and other restaurant-type businesses. The RRF has now closed; however, the SBA will continue to deliver economic aid to help small businesses recover with critical relief through programs such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loans [EIDL], Targeted EIDL Advance and Supplemental Targeted Advance and the Community Navigator Program.

Contact Ellen Mortensen at ellen@gothenburgleader.com or call 308.537.9498