COVID-19's effects on unemployment, elections, and abortion discussed

Secretary of State Robert Evnen speaks as Gov. Pete Ricketts looks on (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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March 26, 2020 - 5:49pm

COVID-19’s effects on unemployment, elections, and abortions were among subjects at Governor Pete Ricketts news conference Thursday.

Referring to a huge jump in unemployment claims, state Labor Commissioner John Albin said the numbers tell the story.

“We’ve had a tidal wave of claims filed. You look at the last week prior to the beginning of the shutdowns, particularly in the Omaha area, we had 799 claims. Last week we took 15,688,” Albin said.

Albin said 40 percent of the new claims were from people in accommodations and food service jobs. He predicted many more claims to come. But he also tried to look on the bright side.

“It’s not all dark though. I mean, the economy was in really good shape before. We had 34,000 listings for jobs just before this all hit. And although you can argue about whether those are available today, you got to think that somewhere mid- April, early May those jobs are going to start coming back,” he said.

Regarding elections, which have been postponed in some states, Secretary of State Robert Evnen said that wouldn’t happen in Nebraska. “We're going to have a primary election on May 12. The polls are going to be open, and they'll be staffed in a way that protects our poll workers and protects our voters. And meanwhile, I would encourage people to give serious consideration to early voting by mail and making a request sending in an application to do so,” Evnen said.

Evnen said between the counties and the state, applications to vote by mail would be mailed out to every voter who doesn’t live in one of 11 counties that already conduct elections exclusively by mail. Evnen added that while he doesn’t have a prediction on turnout, he’s optimistic.

“I don't think Nebraskans are going to stay away from the polls, or not vote, because of a microbe. I think that we're going to stand up and we're going to vote. We're going to exercise our rights in this democratic republic, and we're going to stand up and we're going to vote. So I don't think that we're going to have a huge impact on turnout. In fact, I think turnout might be pretty good,” he said.

On abortions, Gov. Ricketts was asked if the prohibition on elective surgeries in areas of the state under directed health measures would apply. He said it would.

“We have, in areas where we've issued those, prohibited elective surgeries, and elective abortions would fall in that category of elective surgeries,” Ricketts said.

Asked what would be defined as an “elective” abortion, Ricketts said “That would be up to the healthcare provider to be able to determine with their patients. So for example, if somebody's life at stake that would be considered non elective. So that's really up to the healthcare provider to work out that issue. We're not going to go in and be prescriptive because there's so many different types of things that healthcare providers have to deal with with their patients.”

Efforts get reaction from Planned Parenthood, which runs clinics in Omaha and Lincoln, and the Bellevue Health Clinic in that Sarpy County city, were not immediately successful.

Ricketts was also asked about a change in directed health measures which now requires family members of people exhibiting symptoms of infection to stay home. He said that’s necessary to slow the spread of the virus

“Not only if you're sick should you stay home, but everybody in your household should stay home as well, if somebody has those flu-like symptoms of high fever, coughing, shortness of breath, that sort of thing," he said. The measures also mention runny nose, sore throat, and nausea and vomiting, and say if people have at least two of those symptoms, they and members of their household should stay home.




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