As Covid numbers across Nebraska continue to climb, Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an update on the seriousness of the situation on Friday, Nov. 13. “We currently have 905 people in Nebraska hospitals with COVID-19, which is approximately 20% of our staffed hospital bed. We are seeing an average of 25 more people per day needing hospitalization,” the Governor stated. He said that going forward, Nebraska will be adjusting DHMs based on the percentage of hospitalized patients with Covid. Currently, the state is in the orange level, but if we proceed to red (25% of beds being used by Covid patients), the following changes will be among some of the changes made:
■ Youth extracurricular activities: prohibited below
the high school level
■ Bars: closed, limited to carry-out only
■ Indoor gatherings: 10 person rule
■ Outdoor gatherings: 25 person rule
■ Public meetings: all virtual
As of Monday, Nov. 16, the Governor added an additional DHM which temporarily halts elective surgeries that can wait four weeks or longer without substantially changing a patient’s outcome. The Governor’s office said other restrictions may be coming down the pike as well.
“Everything we have been doing has been to protect our hospital system to make sure people get the care they need. We are entering a very serious chapter in the pandemic,” the Governor stated. “So far, we have been able to provide hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators to anyone who needs care. If trends continue, Nebraska will reach a point where that’s no longer possible.”
Dr. Anna Dalrymple, a physician at Gothenburg Health, took to social media last week to share her concerns and frustrations - an avenue she said she rarely takes. “We are well on our way to overwhelming our hospitals. I have never seen physicians and healthcare workers band together to try to make change in such a way as I have this week, which is why I am speaking out on social media, something I almost never do. Trying to do my part,” she wrote.
Dr. Dalrymple, like many healthcare providers and others across the state, is urging the public to get serious, and Governor Ricketts to do more now. She issues a warning to what she sees may be the outcome if something isn’t done, and soon. “We may need to do what Utah has done and present a model for rationing of care. This would mean someone like me evaluates you when you come to the hospital, and decides if you get care based on how sick you are, how likely you are to get better, and the resources we have available at the time. That is definitely not something I was trained to do and don’t want to do.”
The Two Rivers Public Health Department reported 101 new cases of Covid in the seven-county region it serves for Monday, Nov. 13. Of those, 25 were in Dawson County. And this district is certainly not the only one to experience a steep increase in recent weeks. Our neighbors to the west in Lincoln County have also seen a sharp upward spike in cases, prompting the West Central District Health Department to move their risk dial from the mid orange tier to well in the red. That district reported 1,355 active cases as of Monday, Nov. 16.
To the north of us, the Loup Basin Public Health Department - which includes Custer County - is also struggling to get numbers under control. On Friday, Nov. 13 the department reported 110 new cases in its nine-county district in just two days, and said that more than one-third of the district’s total cases had come in just the past two weeks. Custer County has now experienced eight Covid-related deaths, and though still in the orange risk dial tier, the needle rose quite a bit from the previous week - inching ever closer to the red.
Dr. Dalrymple encourages the public to take personal responsibility in helping slow the spread by wearing a mask, distancing and washing your hands frequently. She is also asking everyone to take it a step further. “Please reach out to your community leaders, elected officials, anyone, and tell them we need stricter Directed Health Measures,” she urges. “We need: a mask mandate enforceable with fines (Not forever!! I promise!!); stopping non-essential activities (such as school sports); temporary (key word temporary) restriction on indoor bars, restaurants, gyms, churches - hello takeout and zoom again; readily accessible rapid testing (which we have!) and contact tracing. I know these ideas are not popular, but so is not having access to healthcare.”
Dr. Dalrymple is not alone in urging Gov. Ricketts to enforce stricter DHMs to help slow the spread of Covid. However, at a press conference on Monday, Nov. 16, the Governor made it clear the public pressure is doing little to influence his stance against making masks mandatory in the state. As of now Nebraska remains in the “orange” on the risk tier dial, and while Ricketts has outlined his plans if the state moves into the red - mandating masks is not one of them.
The Governor reminded Nebraskans to take advantage of the option for free coronavirus testing through Test Nebraska. All Nebraskans are eligible for testing. You can sign up, take a short health assessment, and schedule a time to get tested by visiting www.TestNebraska.com.