LINCOLN, Neb. – In a Friday press conference, Governor Pete Ricketts issued a new Directed Health Measure for the state that goes into effect Wednesday, Oct. 21 - Nov. 30.

Included in the measure were directives on elective healthcare procedures, bars and restaurants, indoor and outdoor gatherings, and wedding and funeral receptions.

“We have seen an increasing number of hospitalizations,” Ricketts said. “While we have seen increasing testing and increasing cases, what I’ve really focused on is those hospitalizations. All the restrictions we have put into place is about maintaining hospital capacity.”

In order to continue elective procedures, hospitals must maintain at least 10% of their staffed general and staffed ICU beds as reserve capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

Hospitals must continue to accept and treat COVID-19 patients and must not transfer COVID-19 patients outside of their networks to create capacity for elective procedures.

“Remember, it’s not just about people with COVID-19,” Ricketts said. “It’s about a lot more than that. If there’s a significant accident or if someone has a heart attack, we want there to be room in the hospital for them, as well.”

In Nebraska bars and restaurants, patrons will be required to be seated while on site unless they are placing an order, using the restroom, or playing games. There will be a maximum of eight individuals in a party. Groups larger than eight will need to split into multiple tables. Full capacity is still allowed at this time.

Like restaurants, weddings and funeral receptions will be limited to eight-person groups at tables. The recommendations include limiting dances or other social events requiring guests to gather outside of their respective table groups.

“It’s pained me to put in place these restrictions on people’s personal liberty and for government to tell businesses how they have to run, but it’s been necessary to be able to preserve that hospital capacity,” Ricketts said.

Indoor gatherings will now be limited to 50% of rated occupancy, not exceeding 10,000 people. That is a reduction from the 75% capacity currently in effect. Outdoor gatherings face no new changes, remaining at 100% of rated capacity. Plans for reopening or expanding to new capacity limits must be submitted to the local health departments and approved for all indoor and outdoor locations and venues that hold 500 or more individuals (1,000 or more in counties over 500,000 population) before reopening is permitted. The reopening plan must contain the planned number of guests, how the location will meet social distancing guidelines, and sanitation guidelines.

“I know everybody is tired of the pandemic,” Ricketts said. “They’re tired of wearing masks, avoiding large crowds. They want to be with people. They want to be with family. But we still have the virus in our community. In some cases, it’s spreading very widely.”