Staff members at CrossFit Lincoln have ramped up their coronavirus precautions to keep their doors open and customers exercising, staying safe and sane while state and local health officials encourage limited public gatherings.

Owner Phillip Kniep has dropped class sizes from 18 to eight, suspended open gym hours, barred drop-ins and launched an equipment loan program.

Customers stuck at home or who can't make it into one of the west Lincoln gym's classes have been checking out dumbbells, sandbags, kettlebells and plyometric boxes, he said.

For now, the loan program allows people to work out in their basement or garage, if needed.

But it also prepares gym members for the transition to all-virtual classes that CrossFit Lincoln coaches plan to host using videoconferencing technology when the spread of COVID-19 shuts down gyms, he said. 

"Closing is probably imminent," Kniep said.

Across Lincoln, several businesses have already closed or sent employees home to work remotely, while others relying on public interaction like gyms and salons have made modifications to comply with public health directives designed to reduce COVID-19 transmission. 

"While not required at this time, our community is relying on businesses to make these changes for the greater good," Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said in a video news conference. "Lives depend on them."

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Thursday announced the state's first measure to enforce the cap on public gatherings of 10 people in Douglas, Cass, Sarpy and Washington counties.

Restaurants and bars in the Omaha area, where two COVID-19 cases of community spread have been reported, must close their dining areas and move to takeout or delivery service. Alcohol sales are restricted to takeout and delivery only in Omaha.

To provide some relief to those businesses, Ricketts issued an executive order that permits establishments statewide to sell beer, wine and spirits to customers placing takeout or delivery orders. Restaurants and bars will also be able to sell alcohol on drive-thru or curbside orders without customers having to exit their vehicles.

In addition, temporary operating permits will be extended from 90 to 180 days, and the state will waive penalties for late payments on excise taxes. Under normal circumstances, beer must be paid for upon delivery, and wine and spirit deliveries must be paid within 30 days, but the executive order will give restaurants and bars 90 days to pay for wine and spirit deliveries for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Thursday's directive restricts more than 10 people, excluding staff, from being inside a room or single space at the same time at Omaha area establishments like gyms, salons, meeting rooms, schools, theaters and libraries.

The order carves out obvious exemptions for airports, grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes, jails and courtrooms, but also for auto dealerships, shopping malls, convenience stores, big-box retailers and manufacturing and packing facilities where large numbers of people may be present but not typically within 6 feet of each other.

Weddings and funerals are also subject to the 10-person limit.

The directive from the governor on Thursday made the 10-person limit mandatory and enforceable by Douglas County law enforcement or health department officials. 

In Lincoln, where there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19, police won’t be sent to crack down on businesses or places allowing more than 10 people to congregate, Gaylor Baird said.

The mayor urged people not to call police or the sheriff's office to complain about businesses that aren't abiding by the 10-person limit recommended in Lancaster County. Those important communication lines should remain open, she said. 

Rather, complaints should be made to UpLNK, the city's online complaint reporting website and app, at

Complaints made to the city will be acknowledged by staff, but at this point, Gaylor Baird said, the city isn't mandating compliance. 

Still, the voluntary efforts by businesses and organizations across the city in the absence of a confirmed case of COVID-19 serves as a testament to the commitment of Lincoln residents in stemming the spread of the coronavirus, she said.

The owners of Lincoln’s 15 Cost Cutters and Supercuts salons have taken several steps to follow the state and federal guidelines — and ease the burden on employees.

First, it shortened their weekday hours — they’re now 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. — to give stylists a little more personal flexibility, said Lori Droud, talent development lead for the Lincoln-based Barnes Group, which owns 47 salons in the region.

The company is limiting the number of people allowed inside a store to 10, typically five stylists and five customers. Employees are spending more time sanitizing between customers. And they’re screening customers at the door, asking if they’ve traveled outside the U.S. in the past two weeks, had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing a fever, cough or trouble breathing.

No one has answered yes, she said. But if they do, they’ll be asked to come back at another time.

And finally, they’re suspending some of their services, no longer offering waxing or beard-trimming, she said.

Taking precautions for the pandemic has created an added hurdle for tax preparers at Rediger and Co., said owner Scott Rediger: Internal Revenue Service officials didn't push back the April 15 filing deadline.

So to keep client tax filings on schedule and staff and clients safe, Rediger has temporarily barred face-to-face client meetings and asked as many of them as possible to use the mail or secure electronic delivery to get documents to the company, he said.

Typically 300 to 400 clients swing by their office just east of 33rd and O streets to drop off their documents, and as many as 40% request in-person meetings, Rediger said. 

Complicating these precautionary changes, many clients aren't able to send their tax information electronically or don't want to go to the post office, he said.

"Trying to finish tax season is a major challenge," he said. "We will end up with many, many more extensions than we've ever had."

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On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.