ASHLAND – Despite some minor relaxation of regulations dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, most restrictions remain in place in Ashland through the month of May.
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced April 29 that the original Directed Health Measures will remain in place in the Three Rivers Public Health Department jurisdiction until May 11, which includes Saunders, Dodge and Washington counties.
The Sarpy/Cass Department of Health began less restrictive measures on Monday.
However, the governor also introduced some changes to restrictions for faith-based services and elective medical procedures for the entire state.
City Administrator Jessica Quady said the city’s public facilities remain closed. The playgrounds and parks were ordered by the City Board of Health to close on April 3, and that order remains in effect.
City Hall is also closed to the public, as it has been since mid-March. The building will not open until the city council votes to do so, Quady said.
City business can be conducted online, by phone or using the drop box outside. Members of the public can also make appointments to conduct business.
May 31 is the deadline when dogs must be licensed in Ashland. This can be done over the phone or the form can be printed off and dropped off at the drop box.
The doors of the Saunders County Courthouse and Law Enforcement and Judicial Center in Wahoo also remain closed to the public, according to Saunders County Attorney Joe Dobesh.
The Saunders County Board of Supervisors approved closing the facility on March 18. Business is conducted by appointment only.
Dobesh said the county does not plan to open the buildings until given the go-ahead by Three Rivers.
The governor passed an executive order in March that gave vehicle owners 30 days after the DHM orders are lifted to license and/or title their vehicle. Driver licenses and state identification cards that expired after March 1 were also given the same extension.
Dobesh said this helped ease the burden for the county treasurer’s office.
In county and district court, business continues, but in a different way, Dobesh said. Only essential business is carried out, and then most of it is done via teleconference. In fact, one recent day, he was the only one present in the District Court room during a hearing, he said.
“It’s going really well,” he said. “I don’t think its significantly impacting our ability to operate.”
Because of the pandemic, the state has allowed not only hearings, but also government bodies to meet via telephone or teleconferencing.
Meetings of the Ashland City Council and Planning Commission and other public bodies have been held using a teleconferencing platform, and will continue until social distancing restrictions are lifted, Quady said.
The state’s relaxed regulations are focused on elective medical surgeries and procedures and faith-based services in houses of worship, according to Dobesh.
Since Monday, surgeries and procedures that are scheduled in advance and do not involve a medical emergency are allowed. The health care facilities must maintain and dedicate 30 percent of general bed capacity, intensive care unit capacity and ventilator capacity for non-elective patients. They also are required to keep a two-week supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Services at houses of worship are allowed, but with restrictions. Only families that live together can be seated in the same pew. Otherwise, six feet are required between worshipers. The facilities must be sanitized between services. A common collection basket is not permitted, and the use of the church’s public sacred books, hymnals, missals and other such books is not permitted. Common cup at communion is not allowed, and the use of pre-packaged elements is encouraged.
Funerals and weddings will be permitted, but the services must comply with the guidelines set for faith-based services. The 10-person limit on gatherings is also in required and receiving lines are prohibited.
Theaters, team sports and service industries like beauty salons, nail salons and barber shops remain closed through May 10 under the new DHM. The schools have closed until May 31.
On Monday, one new case of COVID-19 was announced in Saunders County, bringing the total to 11. The patient is a female resident of the county who is in her 30s.
There are 160 cases reported in the three-county area serviced by Three Rivers. Dodge County has 126 cases, and Washington County has 23.
The symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever, cough, sore throat, severe fatigue, loss of taste and smell or difficulty breathing. Anyone with symptoms should contact their health care provider. Call ahead before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room.