State Watch — Verizon

Nebraska doctors call on governor to enforce more restrictions over coronavirus

Greg Nash

More than 40 Nebraska doctors are calling on the state’s governor, Pete Ricketts (R), to implement stricter social-distancing requirements that “force people to stay at home” amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. 

“COVID-19’s arrival has been much swifter than we ever imagined,” Dr. Libby Crockett, an OB-GYN, and Dr. Rebecca Steinke, a family physician, wrote in an open letter published in the Omaha-World Herald on Saturday. The letter was signed by 43 other physicians in Grand Island, Neb.

The physicians warn that novel coronavirus has already begun to strain the capacity of Grand Island’s health system. They also caution that the number of people infected with the disease could be much higher in their community than the official tally due to a lack of testing. 

They wrote that there were 47 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hall County, where Grand Island is located, as of Saturday morning, up from three just last week. Though because of a lack of testing, Steinke and Crockett warn that thousands could be infected with the virus without knowing it. 

A set of more stringent restrictions on travel needs to be enforced in response, the two argued. 

“We love our vibrant and diverse community and want to work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 here, but we need the help of Ricketts,” the doctors wrote, asserting that the “current health directive measures… are not enough.”

“There are too many people still working outside the home,” they added. “Many of these individuals are working in close quarters.To make matters worse, many of those workers live in large, multi-generational households where access to health information is limited, which will facilitate the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable populations, and quickly.”

Ricketts is one of only a handful of U.S. governors to refrain from issuing a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order amid the pandemic. The measures he has put in place have shut down schools and dine-in areas at restaurants. He’s also barred gatherings that exceed 10 people. 

Taylor Gage, a spokesperson for his office, told The Omaha World-Herald that the governor has been in contact with Grand Island’s mayor and the city’s public health department about the virus. Gage added that they are reaching out to the group of physicians in the hopes of convening a meeting. 

The Nebraska Health Department has confirmed 323 cases of Covid-19 and eight deaths caused by it statewide. Douglas County has confirmed 134 cases of the disease, making it the only region in the state with more confirmed infections than Hall County. 

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