Ricketts, state officials discuss state's COVID-19 vaccine plans

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Gov. Pete Ricketts held a press conference in Lincoln on Monday to talk about the state's COVID-19 response, as well as Nebraska's plan for phasing out vaccinations once they become available.

Ricketts said though hospitals are being heavily used, he said there is a "robust" capacity, with 34% available beds, 35% intensive care units and 75% ventilators across the state.

Testing has also been an important resource for people to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Ricketts said there has been around 350,000 tests taken in Nebraska, and the results come in around 48 hours or less.

As far as vaccinations, Ricketts said the federal government required states to put together a plan by Oct. 16.The plan can be found at dhhs.ne.gov.

Ricketts and state officials said the vaccine will be phased out once they are readily available. The vaccine could potentially be available toward the end of 2020 or early next year.

The first phase will more than likely have a limited supply of doses available. These will be provided by Vaccine for Children partners, and closed settings such as local health departments, tribal healthcare, federally-qualified health centers, community-based clinics and hospitals in closed settings.

Phase 1A will be focused on vaccinating healthcare personnel in critical units, urgent care providers, emergency room workers, long-term care staff and primary care access points. This will not include workers who are remote or do not provide patient care.

Phase 1B will focus on nursing homes, assisted living homes, independent living and skilled nursing. This phase will also focus on those 65 and older or those in the vulnerable population with underlying medical conditions.

Jeri Weberg-Bryce, co-writer of the State of Nebraska COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, said once vaccines become more readily available, Phase 2 will allow the general population to receive doses.

Ricketts said the vaccines will be offered for free and will not be mandated.

"People should adapt," he said. "We're anticipating lots of education, but they will be voluntary."

Ricketts said for the time being, he encourages Nebraskans to practice social distancing guidelines and wear masks when in a public setting. He also said to follow the Three C's: avoid confined spaces, crowded spaces and close contact settings.

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