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

On Monday, Phase 3 of Gov. Pete Ricketts’ Directed Health Measures were implemented statewide. These include expanding the number of fans allowed at youth sporting events. All restrictions from elective surgeries are also being lifted. Practices for contact team sports may begin July 1.

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

Dakota, Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties moved 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 is expanded to 100% capacity. In Phase 2, only 50% capacity was allowed. The number of people seated at one table is capped at eight, but food may be consumed at bar seating. Games such as pool and arcade games are allowed. Self-serve buffets and salad bars will still be prohibited.

Indoor gatherings are restricted to 50% of rated occupancy of a building, not to exceed 10,000. Events held outdoors are 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 are still prohibited. Parades are only 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 are permitted under the guidelines for gatherings.

Gyms, fitness centers, health clubs and spas are 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. People attending these events can sit at tables with a maximum of eight individuals. Self-serve buffets and salad bars are not allowed and limited dancing or other social events are allowed.

The contents of Phase 4 of the DHM were also announced recently. 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 Lancaster County continues to rise, but at a slower pace. On Monday, 12 new cases were reported by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, bringing the total to 1,623. The number of deaths remains at 10.

There are 26 patients hospitalized in the Lincoln area for COVID-19. Of those 17 are Lancaster County residents and nine are from other counties. Four of the patients are on ventilators as of Monday. So far, 511 people have recovered from the disease.

The Sarpy/Cass County Health Department reports 61 residents in Cass County have tested positive for COVID-19. In the entire district, there have been eight deaths, but no deaths have been reported in Cass County.

Positivity rates in the state are dropping. In Nebraska, the rate was 11.4% on Monday, a slight decrease from 11.8% reported last Friday.

The COVID-19 Risk Dial for Lancaster County is at “yellow,” indicating a moderate risk of the virus spreading. Residents are advised to continue following recommendations to stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing, attend gatherings that meet the DHM, wear face masks when around other people and continue to wash hands regularly, disinfect highly-touched surfaces and monitor for illness.

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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