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(COLUMN) Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year | KTIC Radio

(COLUMN) Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year

(COLUMN) Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year

Christmas and New Year’s Day are welcome opportunities to slow down, connect with loved ones, and look forward to 2021.  As we approach the year’s end, I am thankful for the many sacrifices Nebraskans have made in 2020.  Despite many difficulties, our state’s residents have displayed inspiring strength and compassion during the pandemic.

Healthcare workers have done heroic work this year to keep people healthy.  Families have adjusted their routines to protect elderly or at-risk loved ones in their households.  Businesses have found creative ways to keep the doors open and lights on to serve customers.  Places of worship have provided innovative opportunities for their congregations to come together during the pandemic.  Teachers have pulled double duty, providing instruction both in-person and for remote learners.  Child care centers have adopted rigorous health protocols to continue serving families.  These are just a few of the ways Nebraskans have risen to the challenge in 2020.

Through it all, Nebraskans have been committed to slowing the spread of the virus.  This has helped us to protect our hospitals as they care for coronavirus patients.  Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Nebraska continue to decline.  They’re down more than 40% since peaking on November 20, 2020.  We moved below 15% of staffed hospital beds with coronavirus patients on December 17th.  If the percentage is under 15% for seven days (rolling average), we’ll move from the “yellow” to “blue” phase of our pandemic response plan.  If this happens, we’ll adjust our DHMs again in keeping with the plan.  A chart listing the restrictions within each color-coded phase of the plan is available through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website by clicking here.

As we gather over the holidays to celebrate, let’s think about how to guard against the spread of the virus.  Wear a mask when you shop.  Limit the size of parties and gatherings.  Keep plenty of distance between people.  Keep good ventilation indoors, for example, by opening windows to increase air flow if you can.  If you get sick, isolate yourself to protect loved ones.

If you plan to visit family, consider getting a test through Test Nebraska.  Taking a test can detect the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms.  This can help you avoid inadvertently passing the virus to loved ones.  Test Nebraska lab services will be uninterrupted over the holidays.  Test Nebraska test sites will close at 5:00 pm on Christmas Eve and be closed on Christmas Day.  They will be open on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  Go to TestNebraska.com to take a brief health assessment and schedule a time to get tested.  Test Nebraska continues to deliver results less than 48 hours after the initial swab.

The holidays won’t pause Nebraska’s vaccination efforts.  We expect about 32,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to arrive this week.  We’ll use them to immunize healthcare workers in our Phase 1A priority group.

We’ve also prioritized long-term care residents and staff in Phase 1A to ensure they get vaccinated quickly.  Between this week and next week, we expect 23,400 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to arrive to Nebraska.  These doses will be used by pharmacies to vaccinate long-term care facility residents and staff, starting the week of December 28th.  To view the State of Nebraska’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, including the list of groups prioritized for vaccination, go to dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/COVID-19-Vaccination-Plan.pdf.

Coronavirus vaccination has begun nationwide, and the vaccines have proven to be safe.  This confirms data from extensive clinical trials, which also demonstrated the safety of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.  I encourage Nebraskans who’ve been immunized to share their experience with family, friends, and neighbors.  It’s important for everyone to know that the vaccines are very safe and highly effective.

If you have questions about coronavirus vaccination, please email pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244.  I encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they can after they become eligible so that we can put an end to the pandemic.

Before I sign off, I want to wish a merry Christmas to our military servicemen and women on deployment.  We appreciate your sacrifice and pray for your safe return home to family and friends.  And thanks to the many healthcare workers who will spend Christmas and New Year’s Day at the hospital, faithfully caring for those who are ill.  Let’s support these men and women on the frontlines of the pandemic by remembering to use our tools to slow the spread of the virus over the holidays.

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