State Moves All Counties To Final Reopening Stage; Lancaster County Will Stay In Phase 3

An explanation of some of the changes in the Phase 4 Directed Health Measure (Nebraska DHHS)
An explanation of some of the changes in the Phase 4 Directed Health Measure (Nebraska DHHS)
September 14, 2020 - 12:04pm

The entire state is now in the final stage of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the exception of Lancaster County.

The Phase 4 Directed Health Measure from the Department of Health and Human Services removes nearly all restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. 

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department announced earlier this month that it would not follow the state's directive, choosing to maintain the current restrictions at least through the end of September. 

"Because Lancaster County has a special carve-out in the statute they're able to do something separate without getting the approval of the state to do it," said Gov. Pete Ricketts at a news conference Monday morning.

It's not the first time Lancaster County has deviated from the state's DHM: Gov. Pete Ricketts has said he strongly disagrees with the local health department's mask mandate, which took effect July 20. "I disagree with the process. I think we're ready to move into Phase 4 across the state, but Lancaster County gets to go and do something separate." 

The Phase 4 DHM removes restrictions related to restaurants, bars, churches, salons, and more. The only restrictions remaining relate to public gatherings; indoor events are limited to 75% rated occupancy, while outdoor events can use full capacity. Venues that serve 500 or more people have to get a reopening plan approved by local health officials; in Lancaster County, that rule is for venues of more than 1,000. 

Ricketts said the new rules mean schools can have spectators at sports events, as long as schools follow the guidelines for getting a reopening plan approved. 

Statewide, new cases of COVID-19 have increased about 25% in the past 14 days compared to the 14 days prior. There are now more than 38,000 total cases in the state.

New cases in Lancaster County continue to surge, with a nearly 60% increase in the past 14 days. The 7-day average positivity rate in the county has not been below 10% since August 27.

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