DHHS Wednesday COVID-19 Update

News Release
For Immediate Release: 10/21/2020

Leah Bucco-White, Communications, (402) 471-9356,
Khalilah LeGrand, Communications, (402) 471-9313,


LINCOLN – The state case total, as of today, is 59,409. There were 35 new COVID-19-related deaths in the state over the last seven days, for a total of 565. A total of 39,687 Nebraskans diagnosed with COVID-19 have since recovered.

The daily average of positive cases for the last seven days is 838, compared to a daily average of 684 and 530 in prior weeks.

Hospitalizations continue to rise this week, which underscores the ongoing need to take preventive actions. Avoid the Three Cs to help slow the spread of the virus:

  • Crowded places – avoid gathering in groups where you can't maintain 6-feet of distance from others.
  • Close contact – wear a mask or maintain 6-feet of distance when you're with people you don't live with.
  • Confined spaces – avoid enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

Efforts to support hospital capacity

DHHS is working alongside the Governor's Office to maintain hospital capacity statewide and communicating with hospitals daily about bed and staff availability. The department is continually monitoring hospital capacity and evaluating the measures in place.

The State is allocating up to $40 million in CARES Act funding to support hospital capacity across Nebraska. These funds will be provided to General Acute Care Hospitals as they demonstrate the need and ability to increase capacity to care for COVID-19 patients. 

Nebraska received $1.25 billion through the CARES Act to aid coronavirus relief efforts.

Changes to State Directed Health Measures effective today

The State Directed Health Measures can be found at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/COVID-19-Outline-of-Changes-to-Upcoming-DHMs-10-2020.pdf.

Changes include:

  • Elective Procedures/Surgeries
    • In order to continue elective procedures, hospitals must maintain at least 10% of their staffed general and ICU beds as reserve capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.  
    • Hospitals must continue to accept and treat COVID-19 patients and must not transfer COVID-19 patients to create capacity for elective procedures.
    • Hospitals may also submit a surge plan to continue to perform elective surgeries.
  • Bars & Restaurants
    • Patrons will be required to be seated while on premise unless they are placing an order, using the restroom, or playing games.
    • 100% of rated occupancy continues.
    • Maximum of eight (8) individuals in a party.
  • Gatherings
    • INDOOR Gatherings will be limited to 50% of rated occupancy (not to exceed 10,000).
    • OUTDOOR Gatherings will remain at 100% of rated occupancy (not to exceed 10,000).
    • Gatherings include but are not limited to Indoor or Outdoor Arenas, Indoor or Outdoor Auctions, Stadiums, Tracks, Fairgrounds, Festivals, Zoos, Auditoriums, Large Event Conference Rooms, Meeting Halls, Indoor Theaters, Libraries, Swimming Pools, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.
    • Groups shall be no larger than eight (8) individuals.
    • Plans for reopening or expanding to new capacity limits must be submitted to the local health departments and approved for all indoor and outdoor locations/venues that hold 500 or more individuals (1,000 or more in counties over 500,000 population) before reopening is permitted.  The reopening plan must contain planned number of guests, how the location will meet social distancing guidelines, and sanitation guidelines.
  • Wedding & Funeral Reception Venues
    • Maximum of eight (8) individuals in a party (groups larger than eight (8) will need to split into multiple tables).
    • 100% of rated occupancy continues.
    • Limited dances or other social events requiring guests to gather outside of their respective tables in guidance.

The DHM changes listed above are scheduled to remain in effect through November 30, 2020.

COVID-19 testing

Those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who are experiencing symptoms can receive a free test through Test Nebraska. Symptoms can include a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, tiredness, muscle aches, headaches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. 

Visit Testnebraska.com, or use TestNebraska/es for Spanish, to schedule an appointment at one of more than 60 Test Nebraska locations across the state. Nebraskans with general questions about testing or who need help completing the online assessment can call the Test Nebraska hotline at (402) 207-9377.

Say Boo to the Flu – Get your flu vaccine by Oct. 31

This season, flu vaccine is more important than ever. Getting a flu shot now helps protect against the flu and also preserves hospital capacity during the pandemic. Protect yourself and others by getting your flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.

Halloween planning

Nebraskans are encouraged to adapt celebrations such as trick-or-treating and fall activities in light of the ongoing pandemic. The CDC offers recommendations that lower the potential for COVID-19 exposure during Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations. Ways to modify favorite traditions and celebrate safely this fall are available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html#halloween.

Costume masks are not a substitute for a protective cloth face mask and should not be worn unless made of two or more layers of breathable fabric covering the mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around the face. All other costume masks should not be layered over cloth masks because it can make it hard to breathe.  

Anyone with COVID-19, or who may have been exposed to COVID-19, should avoid in-person celebrations.

Nebraskans seeking information or help with general questions can call the DHHS COVID-19 information hotline at (402) 552-6645, or toll-free (833) 998-2275. The COVID-19 hotline is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. CT, 7 days a week. DHHS will continue to share new information via the DHHS website, http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.


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