Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who opposed a statewide mask warrant and strict lockdown measures as COVID-19 raged in his state, is now in quarantine with his wife after a dinner guest tested positive for coronavirus.
The Republican dined al fresco with three other people on Sunday night, his office said. One of the participants tested positive the next day. No other details – including whether Ricketts and his catering partners wore any masks or observed social distancing protocols – were provided.
“Neither the governor nor the first lady is showing symptoms, and they will be tested at the appropriate time,” Taylor Gage, a spokesperson for the governor, said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Ricketts dismissed his condition in September even as the number of cases rose and has repeatedly refused calls from the medical community for a statewide mask warrant – even as other GOP governors have caved in to the common sense public health movement.
Last weekend, as the state racked up an additional 3,200 cases, a group of Nebraska doctors launched a social media campaign to change Ricketts’ mind about masks.
His spokesperson, Gage, then called publicly several doctors on Twitter, showing recent retweets of some doctors celebrating the Democratic presidential election victory. Gage tweeted screenshots from three Twitter accounts of doctors who tweeted or retweeted calls saying “Gov. Ricketts, the time to act is NOW! With the tagline “Nebraska Doctors Fighting COVID” – obviously trying to imply that their COVID tweets, which reflected mainstream medical thinking, were somehow politically motivated.
Ricketts held a press conference on Monday where he announced new restrictions given the “growing number of hospitalizations in the state.” The new measures require 6 feet of separation in places like gyms, bars and restaurants; mask requirements in close contact businesses such as hair salons, salons and bowling alleys; and limiting indoor gatherings “to 25% of nominal occupancy,” according to details released by the state.
Yet he did not impose a statewide mask warrant.
After opening the state in September, Ricketts put slightly tighter restrictions in place last month, according to a statement from his office, as the pandemic situation in his state predictably worsened.
New numbers of daily positive cases in Nebraska have jumped since the end of October, according to state health data, and hospitalizations for coronavirus in the state have also increased dramatically. The Omaha World-Herald reported on Tuesday that “Last week marked the sixth consecutive week (for Nebraska) of record new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”
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