Due to an increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, authorities in Nebraska issued orders to tighten restrictions statewide, starting Oct. 21.

Under the new directives, part of Phase 3.1 of the state's economic recovery plan, indoor gatherings must be limited to 50-percent capacity, and no more than 10,000 people. Outdoor gatherings at full capacity are allowed, albeit with a maximum of 10,000 people. Despite relaxing restrictions on parties and formal gathering events, groups of more than eight people will not be allowed. Accordingly, large scale events must be subdivided, by assigned seating or tables, into groups of eight people. The restrictions include gatherings at stadiums, arenas, theaters, libraries, and conference centers, among other venues.

Bars and restaurants continue to operate at 100-percent capacity, but customers must be seated at all times, except when placing an order, using the restroom, or playing games. No more than eight people are allowed at a table. Weddings and funeral receptions may continue at 100-percent capacity, but with a maximum of eight people per table; dances and other interactions between guests outside of their tables must be limited.

Additionally, the new directives order hospitals and medical centers to maintain a minimum of 10-percent of their staff and ICU beds reserved for COVID-19 patients, in order to be allowed to continue providing elective procedures.

All businesses must comply with specific mandates aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, enhanced sanitation procedures, and the use of protective equipment, among other things. While the use of protective facemasks is not required statewide, officials in some cities, including Omaha and Lincoln, do require residents to wear one in indoor spaces.

State authorities urge residents to avoid crowded places, close contact with others, and confined spaces. They also recommend travelers from abroad to practice social distance and monitor their symptoms when entering Nebraska.

Officials could extend or otherwise amend the orders with little-to-no advance notice depending on disease activity in the coming weeks.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.



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