WAHOO – The state continues to loosen restrictions as the curve begins to flatten in the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced new Directed Health Measures to be implemented statewide on June 22 that include expanding the number of fans allowed at youth sporting events and allowing practices for contact team sports starting July 1. All restrictions from elective surgeries are also being lifted.

These directives are for the entire state, which has been in the grips of the pandemic since March. However, the rest of the Phase 3 directives will be implemented in 89 out of the state’s 93 counties.

Dakota, Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties will move into Phase 2, which the rest of the state has been in since June 1. The governor started the first phase of the reopening plan on May 4.

Under Phase 3, occupancy for restaurants, bars, bottle clubs and gentlemen’s clubs will be expanded to 100% capacity. In Phase 2, only 50% capacity was allowed. The number of people seated at one table will be capped at eight, but food may be consumed at bar seating. Games such as pool and arcade games will be allowed. Self-serve buffets and salad bars will still be prohibited.

Indoor gatherings will be restricted to 50% of rated occupancy of a building, not to exceed 10,000. Events held outdoors will be limited to 75% of capacity, also not to exceed 10,000. The definition of gatherings includes indoor or outdoor arenas, auctions, stadiums, tracks, fairgrounds, festivals, zoos, auditoriums, conference rooms, meeting halls and swimming pools and indoor theaters and libraries.

Carnivals, midways, dances, street dances and beer gardens will still be prohibited. Parades will only be allowed if patrons remain in their vehicles and the public does not line the streets. Dancing can take place at events if individuals remain at their tables/seats and social distancing is practiced between groups. Dance recitals will be permitted under the guidelines for gatherings.

Gyms, fitness centers, health clubs and spas will be limited to 75% capacity, along with salons, barber shops, massage therapy services and tattoo/body art facilities.

Relaxation of guidelines also extends to weddings and funerals. Starting June 22, people attending these

events can sit at tables with a maximum of eight individuals. Self-serve buffets and salad bars will not be allowed and limited dancing or other social events are allowed.

The contents of Phase 4 of the DHM were also announced on Monday. No date has been set for implementation of Phase 4. Bars, restaurants, childcare facilities, churches, gyms, fitness centers, health clubs, spas, salons, barber shops, massage therapy services, tattoo parlors/body art facilities, sports, wedding and funeral venues will be removed from the DHM.

Indoor gatherings will be capped at 75% of rated capacity. Outdoor gatherings can allow 100% of rated occupancy. Social distancing will still be recommended.

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Saunders County continues to rise slowly. On Monday, 58 cases had been reported by Three Rivers Public Health Department, which covers Saunders, Washington and Dodge counties. There are 734 cases in all three counties and eight deaths.

Positivity rates in the state and are dropping. In Nebraska, the rate was 12.2% on Monday, a slight decrease from 12.5% reported last Friday.

Although restrictions are being relaxed, the health department recommends maintaining social distancing, wearing a face mask in public and washing hands frequently.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

Those who would like to be tested for COVID-19 can do so at no cost through the Test Nebraska initiative. Go to www.testnebraska.com for screening and test locations.

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