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Nebraska will release more COVID data as hospitalizations rise, Ricketts says
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Nebraska will release more COVID data as hospitalizations rise, Ricketts says

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President Joe Biden will enforce a federal mandate that workers at U.S. companies with at least 100 employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly starting on Jan. 4, a reprieve to businesses facing labor shortages during the holiday season, U.S. officials said on Thursday. Conway G. Gittens reports.

Nebraska will immediately return to daily releases of more extensive COVID-19 data as hospitalizations have crossed a key threshold, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday.

The state averaged 400 people hospitalized with COVID last week, up from 386 the week before, according to a World-Herald analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That is at or close to 10% of the state’s staffed beds — a number the state has used as a trigger for how much data it releases on its public dashboard and how often.

The dashboard had been scaled down for the last 2½ weeks. The pared-down version has been updated weekly rather than daily and has not included county-specific or demographic data.

The week before Ricketts announced the change on Oct. 21, an average of 381 Nebraskans were hospitalized with the virus. At the same time, Ricketts announced that the state would rescind a directed health measure that delayed some elective surgeries.

At a Monday press conference, Ricketts looked to Dr. Gary Anthone, the state director of public health, who confirmed that Nebraska would return to daily data releases effective Monday.

Ricketts said the state was not, however, planning to reinstate the pause on elective surgeries.

“We think the hospitals have been able to manage it, with regard to their personnel and so forth,” he said. “So, we’re not planning on doing that. But we will be going back to … updating the dashboard daily.”

The dashboard will include the same data on COVID-19 as was included before the latest scaling back, he said, plus data related to flu and RSV in the state.

Back in June, the state retired the data dashboard entirely after Ricketts ended the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency. It started reporting a limited amount of data each week — a move that was heavily criticized. In August, 11 state senators requested that Ricketts reinstate the dashboard, saying the data is crucial for schools and businesses making operational decisions.

When hospitalizations were rising in September, Ricketts reinstated a version of the dashboard focused on hospital capacity, prompting praise from health care officials who said it would make it easier for them to plan and manage outbreaks. Ricketts said the dashboard would be dropped if COVID hospitalizations again fell below 10% of the state’s total staffed hospital beds, which came to fruition last month.

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