WEEKLY UPDATE December 14, 2020
It is starting to look a lot like Christmas! With unseasonably warm December temperatures, we may have lost sight of the fact that this is, in fact, December in Nebraska. The past weekend certainly reminded us in short order. Remember to drive safely as snow and ice accumulate periodically and to dress for the cold weather. Sledding and playing in the snow can be a lot of fun with proper clothing. Children just want to get out into it, so if you can, donate winter coats and other clothing to local charities that want to make sure every child is able to stay warm. As the holiday approaches, look in on vulnerable family members and neighbors to make sure they are okay.
Legislature Ahead: Every day, just before the Legislature officially convenes, a state senator leads the Pledge of Allegiance in the Legislature’s chamber. I have been honored to take my turn during each of the four years I have served. This year, my office is preparing a proposed change in the rules that would allow each senator to either lead the Pledge themselves, or, to have an active or retired military member of their district lead it in the senator’s place. The Rules Committee will review the proposal and it must be voted on by the full body to be adopted.
Wreaths Across America Proclamation. Nebraska and our nation are rich with historic recognition of time-honored tradition. One such tradition is coming up on Saturday, December 19, 2020. At 11:00 a.m. Nebraska time, Nebraska will join in 2100 ceremonies through the country and 24 other countries and the Seven Seas in recognizing all of the fallen military members in Wreaths Across America events. The events differ in some respects but one thing is consistent across the world. Wreaths are laid and the names of the fallen are read aloud. There are over 250,000 wreaths laid in Arlington Cemetery alone. In Nebraska there are 12 participating cemeteries.
On Monday, December 14, 2020, the Governor signed a Proclamation, proclaiming Saturday, December 19, 2020 as National Wreaths Across America Day in Nebraska.
I join fellow Americans in recognizing the brave service and importance of those who have served our country.
COVID-19 State Response Update.
Once again, Nebraska has done a good job of slowing the spread.
In his Monday press briefing, the Governor reported that hospitalizations throughout the State continue to decrease. The State is now in the yellow zone on the risk dial and the Governor has loosens restrictions accordingly. As of Monday, fifteen to twenty percent of hospital patients in the state are coronavirus patients. That percentage allows for elective surgeries to resume, for non-household members, like grandparents to attend extracurricular events like school sports. The Governor did state that even though those restrictions are loosened by the State, schools still have the discretion to implement their own safety guidelines. You can find updated Directed Health Measures (DHMs) for each county at governor.nebraska.gov, keywords Directed Health Measures.
Even as restrictions loosen, the Governor stressed that no one wants to be quarantined or hospitalized over the holiday and urged Nebraska residents to continue to use the known tools to help protect the hospital availability. Tools include avoiding the 3 “C”s – close contact, crowds, and confined spaces. Wash hands frequently, sanitize hands and surfaces, social distance, and wear a mask when around others. If you are experiencing symptoms, get tested and if you feel sick, stay home.
As of Monday, TestNebraska has returned back over 523,000 tests. As a reminder, the test is available to anyone who wants to sign up at www.testnebraska.com <http://www.testnebraska.com>.
There is news that doses of vaccine are on the way and should arrive in Nebraska shortly. The first to receive the vaccine are said to include frontline medical personnel and long-term care facilities, followed by those with underlying conditions. Be sure to watch the Governor’s press briefings on Nebraska Educational Television (NET TV) to keep up to date on this and other information concerning the state.
COVID-19 numbers in District 17
The number of positive tests reported for the periods December 4, 2020, and December 11, 2020 in District 17 are as follow:
Dakota County +105 (3422)
Thurston County: + 63 (774)
Wayne County: +57 (870)
College in District 17. After last week’s report by President Turner about the state of the University of Nebraska, I found it fitting to brag about District 17 institutions of higher learning. Wayne State College and Northeast Community College serve a number of students from Nebraska and other states in pursuing a number of career paths.
Wayne State College was kind enough to provide us a very thorough update of its 2020-21 academic year and the year ahead. We first congratulate Wayne State College on welcoming the second largest class in its history for the 2020-2021 academic year. The increase was a whopping 11.7% over the previous year and was just five students short of the largest freshman class since 1968. The College provided us with the following updated information:
“Wayne State’s fall semester started a week early on Aug. 17, 2020, with face-to-face instruction. The College was able to maintain face-to-face instruction throughout the entire semester, which ended Nov. 25. Graduation was held Nov. 20 due to the modified fall schedule.
Wayne State was exceptionally proud of the way students, faculty, and staff rallied for a successful fall semester. The College instituted the 4 Pillar approach, which emphasized hygiene, masks (which were required in all academic buildings and while in line for food service in the Student Center), social distancing, and self-screening (via mobile app that the college community used to monitor for symptoms). Our full plan for the academic year is available here: www.wsc.edu/covid19 <http://www.wsc.edu/covid19>
The College kept numbers low throughout the semester, largely due to rigorous testing and tracing combined with quarantine and isolation protocols. We paid for a block of rooms at local motels that we used for students who lived on campus to use when quarantine or isolation was needed for either exposure to the virus or a positive test result. We made it through the semester without any evidence of spread in our classrooms. The College sent weekly emails to the campus community regarding numbers along with updates regarding safe practices (our numbers for the entire semester are available here: <https://www.wsc.edu/news/article/552/covid-19_cases_at_wayne_state_college>)
Wayne State College began the fall 2020 semester with the second largest class in its history with 821 new freshmen on campus for the 2020-21 academic year. The 11.7% increase is just five students short of the largest ever class that entered in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War.
The freshman class growth, combined with a 2.41% increase in graduate students and a 5.94% increase in returning undergraduate students, put the college at 3,865 total students, which is 4.77% more than fall 2019. Wayne State’s total enrollment has grown 20% in the past three years. You can read more about our enrollment here: <https://www.wsc.edu/news/article/555/wsc_welcomes_second_largest_freshman_class_in_college_s_history>
Our current recruitment cycle for fall 2021 is underway. We are encouraged by the number of applicants as we continue to meet our mission of regional service through access and affordability, student success, and learning excellence. We are especially proud of our work to keep costs down for students and families through aggressive scholarship programs and the work by the Nebraska State College System to keep our tuition affordable.
One of the ways we have committed to continued affordability is through a new Tuition Guarantee program. The Nebraska State Colleges Tuition Guarantee ensures that Pell-qualified Nebraska students can attend Wayne State College tuition-free.
Qualified first-time freshman and transfer students pursuing an undergraduate degree will receive a combination of federal grants, state or private grants, college remissions, or College Foundation scholarships to fill any tuition gap left after the Pell Grant. The State College Tuition Guarantee does not cover additional costs such as room and board, books, and fees. However, the student’s private or community scholarships will not be considered when providing support to cover tuition costs. You can read more about the plan here: <https://www.wsc.edu/news/article/557/state_colleges_to_guarantee_affordability_and_access_through_new_program>
We are extremely grateful to the Nebraska Legislature for funding approved in August for the Career Scholarship Program to provide student support aimed at growing the state’s workforce in high demand fields. The newly created Career Scholarship Program will provide a total of $1 million in scholarships in its first year to be awarded to Chadron State, Peru State, or Wayne State College students who are pursuing careers in critical workforce areas. The new funding, signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts on Aug. 6, will help support Wayne State’s Cooperative Education program as part of the Aksarben Foundation’s Northeast Nebraska Growing Together initiative launched last spring. Wayne State is proud to have launched the cooperative education program this past fall, even in the midst of the pandemic.
This exciting cooperative education program, which you can learn more about at <https://www.wsc.edu/growtogether>, combines classroom education with real work experience for college credit. At its core, the Growing Together Career Scholars Program supports workforce and economic development in Northeast Nebraska. To participate, students must be passionate about earning a degree in one of the eligible fields and must be committed to remaining in Northeast Nebraska. Throughout the program, students participate in career readiness activities. During their senior year, students live in the downtown Norfolk area with peers. This living experience will help students socially connect with the community and gain an appreciation for the many exciting social and cultural opportunities available in the city of Norfolk. Upon graduation, the goal is for students to be hired into full-time positions in Northeast Nebraska.
One final note: Wayne State is currently renovating Benthack Hall, home of counseling, education, and the family and consumer sciences programs. The College aims to make an immediate impact on the region’s shortage of mental health practitioners with the renovation by providing students with a dynamic learning environment that encourages their passionate approach to mental health care.
The renovation, which will be complete in the summer of 2021, includes a state-of-the-art counseling training clinic for students to perfect their psychotherapeutic practices with clients. This clinic aims to serve the surrounding communities’ needs regarding behavioral and mental health. The full-service training clinic will be supervised by licensed professional counselors serving people of all ages, families, and individuals experiencing a variety of diagnoses and treatment needs. The Counseling Department strives to become a leader in producing highly trained clinical providers to serve our rural community starting with the capabilities and functioning of this training facility. You can learn more about the project here: <https://www.wsc.edu/news/article/562/benthack_hall_renovation_aims_to_serve_regional_mental_health_needs>”
I am so proud of the education we are able to provide our young people in District 17 and am thankful for the hard work Wayne State has done to keep them safe while educating them well. Thank you Wayne State College!
As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>