Coronavirus

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Nebraska is taking the next step to return to a “more normal life” as Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the loosening of coronavirus restrictions, beginning Monday.

Directed Health Measures (DHM) were put in place in March to slow the spread of the virus, which Ricketts deemed “very successful.” The state began to loosen restrictions May 4 in Phase 1; Phase 2 was put in place June 1.

Ricketts announced Phase 3 in the “step-by-step” process to reopen the state June 15.

Eighty-nine of the state's 93 counties will move to the next phase, which includes bars and restaurants reopening dining rooms to 100 percent rated occupancy. Patrons will be required to be seated unless they are placing an order, using the restroom or playing games. A maximum of eight people will be allowed per table. Food may also be consumed at bar seating.

Self-serve buffets and salad bars are still prohibited.

Indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 percent of rated occupancy not to exceed 1,000, while outdoor gatherings will be limited to 75 percent of rated occupancy not to exceed 10,000.

Gatherings include but are not limited to indoor or outdoor arenas, auctions, stadiums, tracks, fairgrounds, festivals, zoos, auditoriums, large event conference rooms, meeting halls, theaters, libraries, swimming pools or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.

Six feet separation between groups will become a guidance.

Parades, carnivals, midways, dances and street dances and beer gardens remain prohibited through Phase 3.

Plans for reopening or expanding to new capacity limits must be submitted to the local health department and approved for all indoor and outdoor locations or venues that hold 500 or more individuals before reopening is permitted.

The new DHM also announced loosened restrictions for childcare facilities, gyms, fitness centers, health clubs, health spas, salons, barbershops, massage therapy services, tattoo parlors, weddings and funeral receptions, sports and elective surgeries.

Ricketts also announced plans for Phase 4 in the reopening plan.

Phase 4, which will look similar to Phase 3, will include indoor gatherings limited to 75 percent of rated occupancy and outdoor gatherings at 100 percent of occupancy.

Bars and restaurants, childcare facilities, churches, gyms, fitness centers, health clubs and spas, salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, tattoo parlors, sports, weddings and funeral reception venues will be removed from the DHM. However, guidance will remain as recommendations.

Ricketts was uncertain of the timing for Phase 4.

“We're going to continue to monitor our hospital system and we'll make a determination at a later date when we'll allow phase four. What we hope is that we continue to remain stable as we go through the end of June and into July, and in sometime in July, we'll be able to announce when phase four will be able to start.

Ricketts also announced that K-12 schools, which closed in March, should be working on reopening plans.

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