All of Nebraska will take the next step toward reopening June 1 as Gov. Pete Ricketts issues new health directives to help manage social interactions, business operations and sports.
On Thursday, Ricketts announced the next phase of directed health measures. Eighty-nine counties that took their initial reopening steps this month will see some other restrictions eased in June.
The remaining four counties — Hall, Hamilton and Merrick in central Nebraska and Dakota County in northeast Nebraska — can make their initial moves to reopen as of June 1.
In the vast majority of counties, Ricketts’ new emergency directives will allow larger events, certain sports and the reopening of bars.
But it’s not a return to business as usual.
Here’s an explainer about what’s in the health measures:
Q: What is opening up?
A: Some sports — limited and noncontact sports that were off limits — are allowed. Bars. Group gatherings, which applies to a whole range of auditoriums, stadiums, events and meetings, zoos, libraries and swimming pools. And wedding and funeral receptions.
Q: What are the rules for weddings and funerals?
A: Up to 25 people, or up to 50% of the capacity of a room, whichever is greater (excluding staff), can attend.
Groups inside those venues would be limited to six people, with 6 feet between groups.
Self-serve buffets and salad bars are prohibited. Venue staff must serve food directly to all individuals.
No dances or other social events that require guests to gather outside of their respective tables are permitted.
Q: What places can expand on their initial reopening?
A: Gyms and fitness centers. Salons and barbershops. Tattoo parlors and massage studios.
Q: What about sports?
A: Ricketts is deciding which sports are allowed based on the level of contact in the sport, and he’s using the categories of contact from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis and golf may begin practices June 1, and competitions can begin June 18. Rodeo events can begin June 1.
But basketball, football, soccer and wrestling are considered contact sports and remain prohibited.
Q: How will bars work?
A: Bars can reopen, but one big restriction is that patrons must be seated. That’s unless people are ordering or using the restroom. The bars also must restrict their crowds: no more than 50% of their rated occupancy, 6 feet of separation between seated parties, no more than six people in a seated party and 6 feet of separation between performers and patrons. Patrons can’t eat food at bar seating. Also, no pool, darts or arcade games are allowed.
Q: What about other sorts of gatherings?
A: The Governor’s Office will lift some of the restrictions on this broad list of gatherings: Indoor and outdoor arenas, indoor and outdoor auctions, stadiums, tracks, fairgrounds, festivals, zoos, auditoriums, large event conference rooms, meeting halls, indoor theaters, libraries, swimming pools and “any other confined indoor or outdoor space.”
Q: What are the limitations?
A: As far as gathering size, pick the greater number: 25 people, excluding staff, or 25% of the location’s rated occupancy. But no more than 3,000 people are allowed.
Plus, individual groups can’t have more than six people, and those groups must be 6 six feet apart.
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Q: So concerts are OK?
A: Possibly. If less than 3,000 people. And other requirements apply.
A: Yes, with restrictions.
Q: Drive-in movies?
A: They can operate at full capacity, if moviegoers stay in their cars.
Q: What events are still prohibited?
A: No carnivals, midways, dances, street dances or beer gardens. Certain parades are allowed — in which people stay in their vehicles and the public doesn’t line the street.
And dance recitals are permitted.
Q: Are there other rules?
A: Yes, this is not a blanket approval for bigger gatherings.
Any indoor or outdoor gathering, location or venue that holds 500 or more people must submit their reopening plan for approval to their local health department. In Douglas County, that applies to places that hold 1,000 or more people.
Q: What else is expanding?
A: Gyms, fitness centers, health clubs and health spas can step up to gatherings of 25 people, not counting staff, or 50% of their rated occupancy, whichever is greater.
Those places must ensure 6 feet of separation between all patrons.
Salons, barbershops, massage therapy services, tattoo parlors and body art shops must follow the same gathering limits. Workers and patrons must wear a mask, although people getting a facial can take off the mask.
Also, wedding and funeral receptions. They fit under the same crowd limits and must keep 6 feet of separation between different parties, which are limited to six people each. Self-serve buffets and salad bars are still out. Any food must be served directly by staff. Also, no dancing or social events in which get people up from their tables are allowed.
Q: What about Hall, Hamilton, Merrick and Dakota Counties?
A: They will open to the level where the other counties are now, including the initial reopening of restaurants and salons.