University of Nebraska to provide beds for COVID-19 patients

Governor Pete Ricketts speaks at the podium during Thursday's press briefing.
Governor Pete Ricketts speaks at the podium during Thursday's press briefing.(KSNB)
Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 7:04 AM CDT
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Governor Pete Ricketts, along with other state officials gave information during the daily COVID-19 update.

On Thursday, Nebraska entered into an agreement with the University of Nebraska System to provide quarantine housing.

This allows the State to use beds at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

The agreement will create bed space for three purposes:

- Quarantining individuals who need monitoring

- People in isolation while waiting for testing results

- Discharging patients who are convalescing

This contract will provide about 2,100 bed with food and janitorial services. The State and the federal government will cover the cost of these beds.

The governor said the State is still working on staffing of the dorms and there's no timetable as to when the facilities will be used.

Also during the Thursday briefing, First Lady Susanne Shore announced the Nebraska Impact’s COVID-19 Relief Fund

Nebraska Impact is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect Nebraskans with one another, bridge communities, and enhance state pride by initiating statewide programming that encourages volunteerism and economic development.

The nonprofit is leveraging its statewide connections to assist Nebraskans in need.

The Nebraska Impact COVID-19 Relief Fund will be directed through statewide Community Collaboratives that are part of Bring Up Nebraska, a program administered by the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (NCFF).

Funds will help individual communities meet their local needs, which may include financial assistance for rent, mortgage, and utilities payments; provisions for food pantries; or supplies for students from low-income families now studying from home.

With the assistance and support of NCFF and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, each Community Collaborative has an intimate understanding of its community's needs, challenges, and strengths. Collaborations are also situated on the frontlines where they can readily solve the problems of area residents.

Nebraska Impact and NCFF are also working with the Nebraska Department of Education and the Nebraska’s ESUs to identify technology needs for students from low-income families who are now studying from home.

To learn more about the relief fund, visit

.

Both Governor Ricketts and Commissioner John Albin, from the Department of Labor both stressed the importance that Nebraskans should not walk away from their jobs in the hopes of collecting unemployment benefits. If you quit your job, you will be ineligible for unemployment benefits.

The federal CARES Act created a temporary program that offers benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits including the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and others.

- Self-employed Nebraskans who have been affected by the pandemic should go ahead and file for unemployment. NDOL will automatically review every claim that comes in for eligibility.

- By applying this week, Nebraskans will be eligible to receive benefits for this week.

The CARES Act also increases the amount an individual will receive by $600 for every week an individual is unemployed.

- Once NDOL receives guidance from the federal government, all individuals who qualify will receive $600 in additional benefits for each eligible week of unemployment, including prior weeks.

- Regular unemployment claims will start to be processed Thursday. NDOL will pay at the current rate and then make up additional payments once the federal government issues guidance related to the CARES Act.

The volume of unemployment claims in the past three weeks in Nebraska has been roughly equal to the total volume for 2019.

- NDOL has doubled the number of teammates processing claims in order to expedite payments.

- The Department’s goal is to make 80% of initial payments within 3-4 weeks of a new claim being filed.

Nationally, the number of unemployment claims doubled last week (an increase of 100%). In Nebraska, they only increased 56%, which is a sign of the state’s economic strength.

The State has taken action to provide unemployment relief:

1. Making the first week of eligibility payable rather than an unpaid waiting week.

2. Waiving the requirement to look for work.

3. Waiving benefit charges incurred by employers.

Also, declining an employer’s request to come back to work will also be treated as a “quit,” making a person ineligible for benefits.

Governor Ricketts is defending his refusal to issue a stay-at-home order. He said it's not in the State's plan.

The State developed its plan in consultation with experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and our public health agencies.

Since the virus will spread to different places at different times, and with varying rate, Nebraska has adopted a regional approach to social distancing.

The key to slowing the virus is to limit large social gatherings, which Nebraska has done. He said social distancing can take place without having to close down businesses.

Nebraskans should follow federal guidance to remain home.Most people in Nebraska are already doing so in compliance with the State’s limitations on social gatherings.

When it comes to COVID-19 testing, the number of daily test results jumped over 50% day-over-day between March 31 and April 1.

There were 696 results on April 1, an improvement from 404 on March 31.

DHHS is prioritizing the following persons for COVID-19 testing:

- Hospitalized patients with a clinical presentation consistent with COVID-19.

- Outpatients who are in high-risk or vulnerable populations.

- Residents and staff at 24-hour facilities.

- Health care workers.

- Public safety workers and first responders.

- Individuals older than 65 years old.

- Anyone with underlying conditions where a COVID-19 infection could result in severe illness or death.