LINCOLN — Nebraskans should quarantine themselves after visiting some popular regional destinations, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Tuesday.
He said people who have been to Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; and Chicago, as well as other national and international places with high numbers of people infected with the novel coronavirus, should quarantine themselves at home for 14 days to keep from spreading the virus to others.
But at his daily briefing, Ricketts continued to reassure residents that the state acted quickly enough to stem the spread of the potentially deadly virus without imposing more drastic restrictions.
He praised Nebraskans for “almost universally” observing a 10-person limit on crowds, along with keeping a 6-foot distance from others and practicing good hygiene. Those measures slow the spread of the virus so the health care system can keep up.
But Ricketts warned that Nebraskans will see more cases of COVID-19 as more people get tested. The testing so far has been limited to people at highest risk.
“As we test more, we will find more. That’s nothing to be concerned about.”
The governor said the state started expanding the coronavirus testing capacity by “pooling” tests at public laboratories and by making more use of private laboratories.
Pooling tests means that multiple samples are combined in one test tube. If that tube tests negative, then all of the individual tests are negative, he said. If it turns up positive, then those tests need to be redone separately. But with a 5% rate of positive tests, that should save on time and chemicals needed to run the tests.
Ricketts said that he didn’t take a comment by President Donald Trump that the virus had affected Nebraska more “lightly” than other states to mean restrictions on public gatherings could be lifted more quickly here.
“We will not need to consider that at all,” he said.
Ricketts last week issued a directed health measure for the metro area that mandates limits on crowd sizes and requires the closure of restaurant dining rooms and bars. It also bars students from school buildings.
Nebraska health officials began recommending self-quarantine for people returning from certain international locations in February. The list of locations later expanded to include U.S. hot spots such as New York City, Seattle and Santa Clara County, California.
Ricketts warned Nebraskans to beware of coronavirus-related scams, a warning echoed by Attorney General Doug Peterson. In particular, they urged people not to fall for “miracle” drugs or remedies to prevent or cure COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
They also urged people to ignore calls or texts seeking personal information with the claim that the disclosure is needed to get relief checks from the government and to do research on charities before donating. Some scammers use names resembling widely known charities.
Ricketts has no plans to delay the deadline for paying property taxes. He said those taxes are an important source of revenue for local governments and that the April 1 deadline is coming up too soon to make changes without consulting those governments.
The deadline for filing and paying state and federal income taxes has been extended to July 15.
Livestock and pets
State Agriculture Director Steve Wellman and Dr. Gary Anthone, the state’s chief medical officer, assured Nebraskans that there is no evidence that this particular coronavirus can be transmitted to livestock and from there to the nation’s food supply. There also is no evidence it can be transmitted to household pets.