Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced he is requesting $58.6 million of emergency funding from the Nebraska Legislature to support the State’s efforts to combat coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19). 

Dr. Gary Anthone, the State’s Chief Medical Officer, joined the Governor for today’s press conference.  He overviewed the State’s procedures to test patients for COVID-19 and to trace contacts of anyone testing positive for the disease.  He also talked about how the State and the medical community are expanding capacity to perform tests.

Gov. Ricketts was also joined by Jim Macy, Director of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (DEE) and Tim O’Brien, Director of Economic Development & External Affairs for the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD).  Director Macy gave an update on the continuously available supply of high-quality drinking water throughout Nebraska.  Director O’Brien emphasized that the state’s public power grid is strong and dependable.  He also underscored the commitment of public utility companies to maintain reliable and uninterrupted service to Nebraskans throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Governor’s emergency funding request includes appropriations for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) for the initiatives listed below:

DHHS Public Health

·       Local Response Efforts - $38,156,700

o  This will provide additional funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supplies to local jurisdictions, and support to local health departments for staffing, PPE, call centers, information technology needs including additional laptops/servers, and other essential expenditures.

·       DHHS Staffing - $4,004,000

o  Due to the size of the response and need to cover response needs, additional staffing expenditures are needed to cover costs for overtime and additional staff.  The areas that need immediate surge and sustained staffing are epidemiology, support services (administrative, communications, and data entry), emergency preparedness, and contracts for staffing in epidemiology and interpreters to meet the increased demands of the Division of Public Health. 

·       Surge Staffing for Veterans Hospitals & DHHS Care Facilities - $13,000,000

o  Additional staffing expenditures are needed to cover costs for overtime and additional staff to maintain facility healthcare coverage needs.  The areas that need immediate surge and sustained staffing are veterans homes and DHHS care facilities including nursing, administrative, and other health care professionals.  This was calculated to cover a surge of 50% in additional staffing needs in the event that staff is unable to care for individuals at the facilities due to staff quarantine or isolation requirements.

UNMC

·       COVID-19 Lab Testing - $515,000

o  This would augment the cost of the reagents, laboratory personnel, and equipment to conduct COVID-19 lab testing for the state.  This would include funds to purchase a combined sample extraction/detection robot for efficient and accurate serial processing of specimens, reducing staffing needs.  This would be to support increased efficiency and capacity of statewide testing through the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory.

·       Lab Equipment, Software Programming, and Personnel - $2,500,000

o  The equipment includes higher throughput automated equipment for microbiology and molecular diagnostics.  The increased testing throughput will be implemented on a fast track within the next 2-4 weeks but would support a prolonged outbreak, which is likely, as well as help prepare for future outbreaks.  All funds would be dedicated to support statewide needs.

·       UV Light Boxes - $100,000

o  The UV light boxes would provide tertiary cleaning of N95 respirators for reuse by healthcare workers.

·       Knowledge Center - $343,900

o  This system is used by coalitions and all stakeholders across the state to establish an interoperable platform for communication, bed tracking, resource sharing, and an overall interoperable platform. 

Full video of today’s press briefing is available by clicking here.