As Nebraskans, everyone is doing a great job of taking responsibility for the safety and health of themselves, their families and those around them. New gardens are going in, artwork is appearing on nursing home windows, and families are cruising neighborhoods and country roads to interact or just to enjoy the views. I see creative new activities every week!
In this time of uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus health crisis, it is important for District 17 residents to remember that the current Directed Health Measures (DHM) in place are stricter for Dakota County than for Thurston and Wayne Counties.
For clarity, all three counties have the following restrictions in place until May 31, 2020:
1. Gatherings of more than ten (10) people (excluding staff at businesses) are prohibited;
2. In addition to that restriction on gatherings, venues such as fitness centers/clubs, gymnasiums, gyms, health clubs, and health spas, shall ensure that a minimum distance of six ( 6) feet be maintained between all patrons.
3. Liquor, beer, and wine sales are restricted to carry-out sales and delivery only, to the extent permitted by law. No onsite consumption is permitted.
4. Food and beverage sales at restaurants, bars, taverns, private clubs, and any dine-in establishments are restricted to carry-out, drive-through, and delivery only.
5. Self-service buffets and self-service food bars are prohibited. Lines for carry-out and drive-through establishments must maintain social distancing guidelines;
6. Effective May 4, 2020 and continuing until May 31, 2020: Elective medical surgeries and procedures are allowed subject to guidelines concerning general bed, ICU bed, and ventilator capacity, as well as PPE supply guidelines.
7. In-home self-quarantine guidelines shall be observed by non-hospitalized individuals who test positive for COVID-19, or who have symptoms associated with COVID-19.
8. All elementary and secondary schools-public, private, and parochial must cease all in- person instruction, and all extra-curricular activities except for: remote learning, child care services, meal distribution, distribution of educational materials and supplies, general building or physical plant operations and maintenance, and residential services may be continued as needed or necessary.
9. Religious services, including weddings or funerals, are allowed but shall be limited to the ceremony or service only. During religious ceremonies and services, party(s) must maintain a minimum of 6 feet of separation and consist of a household unit or individual. Items should not be shared or distributed between different parties.
10. In all three counties, all organized team sports, youth and adult, including but not limited to club sports ARE SUSPENDED until May 31.
**We will know more next week about the status of the Governor’s statement of restrictions on youth sports with regards to the three counties in District 17.
COUNTY SPECIFIC DIFFERENCES:
Through May 31, 2020, DAKOTA COUNTY has stricter measures in place in a couple of specific instances:
First, in DAKOTA COUNTY: All beauty/nail salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, gentleman’s clubs, bottle clubs, indoor movie theatres, indoor theatres, and tattoo parlors/studios remain closed to the public.
Next, in DAKOTA COUNTY, daycares continue to be subject to the 10-person restriction in Daycares.
In THURSTON and WAYNE counties: Beauty/nail salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, tattoo parlors/studios may open, but must use masks, or other item to cover an individual’s mouth and nose, for all staff, practitioners and patrons.
Also, in THURSTON and WAYNE Counties, Daycare and childcare services may not exceed the lessor of the current license limit or 15 children per room/space. Statutory and regulatory staff-to-child ratio requirements are still applicable and enforceable.
Impact on Farmers and Ranchers: “The farmer is the only player in the economy that buys retail and sells wholesale and pays for freight both ways.” Pres. John F. Kennedy.
Certainly the bottleneck created by the disruption of slaughter caused by COVID-19 has made that freight cost to farmers and ranchers more than we could have ever imagined. I have spoken with hard working folks in District 17 and across the state that have had to make heartbreaking decisions about livestock depopulation and product surplus disposal. Together, we have spoken with the Governor and arranged a consultation with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue. Being part of a farm family that also raises cattle, my heart hurts for those facing such decisions and financial devastation. According to Farm Bureau Senior Economist Jay Rempke, slaughter rates are down an estimated 32% for cattle, 29% for hogs, and there is no place for those who have raised and fed the world’s source of protein to take livestock that is ready for market. Add all of this to an Ag economy that has seen a reduction in acres for crop production from 2014 to 2017, and Ag incomes that have fallen 69% during the same period.
Although nowhere close to enough, I am grateful for a small glimmer of hope in the aid being extended by the federal government in the form of the CARES Act, which will eventually provide direct assistance to farmers and ranchers, and the Harvest Food Box Program, designed to have the federal government purchase agricultural products for distribution to Food Banks and other organizations helping those who are struggling with everyday needs.
COVID-19’s impact on the Agricultural economy and the programs being offered are part of a recent webinar hosted by the Platte Institute of Nebraska. The quote from President Kennedy I used above was included in that webinar. Entitled “Impact on Agriculture”, he webinar offers some insight on the issue and featured speakers Tom Sell, former Deputy Chief of Staff for the House Agriculture Committee, and Jay Rempke, Senior Economist from Farm Bureau.
The two discuss the bottleneck situation, the actions being taken by farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and elsewhere, the CARES Act passed by Congress, which included $23.5Billion in direct assistance for Ag producers of livestock, dairy, and specialty crops, as well as the $3Billion intended for the Harvest Food Box Program. The two expect guidance for distributing the assistance to be released soon. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing to take applications for its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) targeted to provide the aid to farmers and ranchers. The USDA website has more information, including information about the assistance application process available at https://www.usda.gov/. You can also watch the Platte Institute Webinar at https://www.platteinstitute.org/research/detail/webinar-impact-on-agriculture
We must continue to work through this difficult time together, reaching out to our neighbors in whatever way we can. As for me, I have increased resolve to find answers and solutions, including reducing the additional burden placed on the agricultural and business communities in the form of property taxes. We will work together and we will come through this hard time.
That’s what we do as Nebraskans.
As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling my office at 402.471.2716.