Over the past three months, Nebraskans have once again shown the world how our grit, determination and spirit of working together can help us overcome any challenge. Faced with the greatest public health crisis in over a century, Nebraskans have responded by slowing the spread of the virus, protecting our healthcare system, and taking care of our neighbors.

Thanks to widespread adoption of social and physical distancing techniques, Nebraskans flattened the curve. Anybody in need of a hospital bed, ICU bed, or ventilator has had access to it throughout the pandemic. We continue to have hospital capacity statewide for anyone who needs it.

Now it’s time to get Nebraska growing and help folks get back to as normal of a life as possible. To that end, we took the next step on June 1 in our phased approach to reopen temporarily closed businesses and activities. The vast majority of the state — 89 of 93 counties — entered Phase Two of our plan to reopen. Dakota, Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties entered Phase One of the plan.

As restrictions are loosened, it is important for all of us to continue to follow our social distancing guidelines to keep six feet apart, avoid large groups and wearing a mask in public is always a good idea. Following these simple steps will be important to slow the spread of the virus and enable the continued loosening of restrictions.

Here are a few details about the rules for June:

Phase Two Reopening (applies to all counties except for Dakota, Hall, Hamilton and Merrick)

• Gatherings

o Gatherings will be limited to the greater of 25 persons (excluding staff) or 25% of rated occupancy (not to exceed 3,000).

• Bars and restaurants

o Restaurants remain open for dine-in, and bars can reopen.

o Bars and restaurants are limited to 50% of the rated occupancy, with a maximum of six persons per table.

o All patrons in a bar must be seated.

• Gyms

o Will be limited to the greater of 25 people (excluding staff) or 50% of rated occupancy.

• Salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, and tattoo parlors

o Will be limited to the greater of 25 people (excluding staff) or 50% of rated occupancy.

o Both workers and patrons are still required in the DHM to wear masks at all times.

• Wedding and funeral reception venues

o Will be limited to the greater of 25 people (excluding staff) or 50% of rated occupancy.

o Self-serve buffets and salad bars are prohibited.

o No dances or other social events that require guests to gather outside of their respective tables are permitted.

• Other group size and physical distancing limitations apply to the gatherings and venues above.

Phase One Reopening (applies to Dakota, Hall, Hamilton, and Merrick counties only)

• Gatherings — including gyms and event venues — remain subject to the 10-person limit.

• Salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, and tattoo parlors can reopen. They are limited to 10 patrons. Both workers and patrons must be masked.

• Restaurants can reopen for dine-in, up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of six persons per table. Bars remain closed.

• Childcare facilities can have up to 15 kids per room/space, subject to the usual staff-to-child ratios.

In addition to our regional reopening plans, we loosened other restrictions statewide. Starting June 1, we relaxed travel quarantines. Only individuals returning from international travel will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon coming back to Nebraska.

Sports provide excellent exercise and help teach teamwork. Statewide, we’ll restart them gradually in June with physical distancing guidelines in place. Limited and non-contact team sports, for both youth and adults, could resume practices on June 1 and games on June 18. Contact sports like basketball, football, soccer and wrestling remain prohibited for the time being. Additional sports guidelines can be found at www.dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus.

As we ease these restrictions, we have been working closely with our local health departments and heath care facilities. Our Test Nebraska initiative will be an important source of information for us. Testing helps us identify where the virus is popping up, and can help contain outbreaks quickly. We’ve already seen great progress in testing this month. In May, we’ve performed more than twice as many tests as we did in March and April combined. I encourage all Nebraskans to take the simple health assessment at TestNebraska.com and to schedule a test if eligible.

I know Nebraskans want to watch football and volleyball this fall, be together with their friends at school, and enjoy concerts and movies. These activities will be more likely to resume, with fewer restrictions, the more we follow the rules and work to keep our family and neighbors healthy.

We’ll post new guidance documents for more activities in the coming weeks. I encourage Nebraskans to stay informed by regularly visiting www.dhhs.ne.gov/coronavirus. You can also go to www.Governor.Nebraska.gov to read the latest news and subscribe to coronavirus updates.

As we enter the summer, I will be working with people across the state to get Nebraska growing, so we can create new jobs and opportunities even as we battle on to win the war against the virus.

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