Gov. Ricketts Answers Your COVID-19 Questions In 'Speaking of Nebraska' Town Hall

Speaking of Nebraska: A COVID-19 Town Hall with Gov. Ricketts (NET News)
March 27, 2020 - 10:00am

Gov. Pete Ricketts sought to assure Nebraskans that the state's response to COVID-19 is adequate at a live town hall hosted by NET News Thursday night. 

The special episode of the discussion program "Speaking of Nebraska" also featured Dr. Gary Anthone, chief medical officer for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and Dr. Matthew L. Blomstedt, commissioner of education for Nebraska

Hundreds of Nebraskans from across the state submitted questions; watch the full program at the bottom of the page. 

Dr. Anthone says the state hasn't hit the peak of COVID-19 cases yet.

"If I was to venture an estimate I might say a week or two. So it’s given us time to prepare," Anthone said. "And we’ve been preparing for this for over two months now…I don’t’ think we can be any better prepared than what we are right now."

Dozens of viewers expressed concern that the state’s planned response isn’t adequate because testing has been very limited. But Gov. Ricketts says he shares Dr. Anthone’s confidence.

The good news is the models that we put together about how we’re going to respond to this all assumed limited testing," Ricketts said. 

The most common question was why more restrictions haven't been ordered to limit the spread. Ali in Seward asked, “Why haven’t we had a mandatory shelter in place order like other states have done?” 

Several people, including Emily in Omaha, want to know if a lock-down is in the future for certain areas, like Douglas County – where more than half of the 85 Nebraskans with COVID-19 live.

Ricketts says a shelter-in-place order was never part of the plan prepared by state health leaders.

"We don’t need to do that because it doesn’t get you very much," Ricketts said. "There’s a cost-benefit trade-off there that just doesn’t get you that much because it’s really about limiting those large public gatherings, and we’re already doing that." 

Lots of you want to know why the state isn’t tracking presumptive positive cases. Before we answer that, let’s define the term.

Dr. Anthone says earlier in the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to verify every lab test — so local officials were reporting positive lab results as "presumptive positive."

Now, the term applies to a person that a doctor diagnoses with COVID-19 without doing a test. That happens when a person tests negative for influenza and other respiratory conditions, but still has all the symptoms of the new coronavirus.

And Dr. Anthone says they are hoping to start tracking those cases soon:

"It’s a little bit more difficult than tracking the positive tests, but we will develop a plan to start keeping tracking of those presumptive positive, clinical diagnosis cases," he said. 



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