Gov. Ricketts Highlights Advent Season, Importance of Behavioral Health as Vaccinations Begin

News Release
For Immediate Release: 12/14/2020

Media Contacts: 
Taylor Gage, (402) 471-1970
Justin Pinkerman, (402) 471-1967


Governor's Media Release:

LINCOLN – This morning, Governor Pete Ricketts hosted a press conference at the State Capitol to provide an update on the State's response to the coronavirus pandemic.  The Governor reminded Nebraskans that updated Directed Health Measures (DHMs) took effect on Saturday, December 12th as part of the State's transition from the “orange" to “yellow" phase of its pandemic plan.  The Governor reported that coronavirus hospitalizations have fallen about 30% in Nebraska since November 20th.  

Bishop James Conley of the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln joined the Governor for this morning's press briefing.  He shared a reflection on Advent and talked about how the Catholic Church in southern Nebraska has navigated the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.

Sheri Dawson, Director of the Division of Behavioral Health in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), emphasized the critical importance of Nebraskans monitoring their mental health this holiday season.

Additionally, Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Director Rhonda Lahm provided information on how the DMV is helping older Nebraskans safely and conveniently renew their driver's licenses.

Gov. Ricketts: Importance of Religion to Nebraska

  • Churches, synagogues, and other places of worship provide much-needed support and spiritual care to Nebraskans.
  • They also do amazing work to better our communities and help those in need.
  • In Nebraska, religious freedom is celebrated, protected, and encouraged.
  • Given the important place of religion in our social life, it's critical for places of worship to have freedom to serve their congregations—especially during tough times like the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Early on in the pandemic, I tasked Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley to work with religious organizations to develop guidelines for holding services, while also taking the necessary precautions to help worshipers stay healthy.
  • I'm grateful for the great judgment places of worship around our state have displayed this year. 
  • They've found creative ways to serve their congregations and communities while also being very mindful of health protocols.

Bishop Conley: Navigating the Pandemic

  • Like many institutions, the pandemic has changed the way we operate.
  • Our goal has been to ensure the safety of our people.  We've rallied together to make sure we can continue to worship, pray, educate, and preach the Gospel during this time.
  • We've done extra sanitization, maintained physical distance, and worn masks.  We've livestreamed our Masses for those who cannot attend in-person.
  • All of these tools have helped us be able to keep our churches open.
  • We've continued in-person learning in our elementary and high schools.  We haven't had to close down any of our schools this semester.
  • The season of Advent is a time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
  • The Advent is a time of hopeful expectation. 
  • While we're hopeful for the arrival of the vaccine, our real hope is in Jesus Christ.
  • He brings peace, joy, love, and unity to the world.
  • The pandemic has affected the livelihoods of many people. 
  • I'm grateful to our Catholic Social Services for helping to meet the material needs people are experiencing.

Sheri Dawson: Behavioral Health

  • Mental health is essential to overall health.  That is especially true as we are living through this pandemic.
  • Loneliness is a feeling of being alone regardless of the amount of social contact.  Social isolation is a lack of social connection.  We can have many social connections but still feel lonely.  Loneliness and feeling disconnected can exacerbate our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, mood, anxiety, and depression.
  • We need to manage expectations this holiday season.  Embrace the imperfect to improve your mental health.
  • Identify those things which you do not have control over and do the best you can with the resources available to you.  Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources.  Calls, drawings, notes, pictures, and notes of thanks just cost a little time.
  • Make self-care a priority.  During this difficult time, be sure to sleep, exercise, and get good nutrition.  This can contribute to your mental health.
  • Reach out to your local community service organizations and faith-based organizations to get involved.  Giving to others changes your brain.  There's an actual physiological benefit when you give to another person.
  • This year's celebrations will certainly look different than those in years past, but with a little creativity, holiday celebrations can still be meaningful this year.
  • Consider using a video conference service such as Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime to carry out your traditions.
  • Pick up your phone and call someone you haven't spoken to in a while.  Your call might make someone else's day as well as your own.  We need each other for support. 
  • It is ok to ask for help.  If you need to talk or get immediate help in a crisis, please call the Nebraska Family Helpline at (888) 866-8660. 
    • The helpline can connect you to behavioral health providers in your community.

Gov. Ricketts: Driver's License Renewal

  • Driver's licenses must be renewed in-person when a person turns 72 years old.
  • Early on in the pandemic, many county offices were closed.  This prevented seniors and other Nebraskans from renewing or obtaining driver's licenses.
  • In May, I issued an executive order giving a temporary waiver for seniors who needed to renew their driver's license.
  • When offices reopened, ending this waiver would have created a backlog resulting in more crowded offices.
  • Currently, the backlog is caught up.  Winter months are less busy in the DMV field offices.
  • While we will not grant additional extensions for seniors turning 72 after January 1, 2021, we are taking steps to make sure that seniors can safely and conveniently obtain their driver's licenses.

Rhonda Lahm: Driver's License Renewal

  • We've put practices in place to better serve our customers 72 years of age and older.
  • When requested, we've scheduled appointments for them to receive services in a way that reduces possible contact with other applicants.
  • In some instances, we've scheduled the appointments before or after normal business hours.
  • Nebraskans 72 and older, and at risk from the virus, can schedule an appointment by calling the Driver Licensing Services Office at 402-471-3861.
    • The DMV can then put customers in touch with a supervisor in their area to schedule an appointment.
  • At some locations, the DMV has also offered extended hours to accommodate customers.
  • All DMV teammates are wearing face coverings while interacting with the public.  The DMV is also sanitizing each workstation between applications and practicing social distancing.
  • In offices with larger volumes, we're managing the flow of traffic and limiting the number of persons in the lobby to create a safer environment for customers.
  • Because we provide driver licensing services at 95 locations across the state, our protocols are flexible.  To date, we've been able to accommodate special requests, and I expect that to continue.

Video from today's press conference is available by clicking here.


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