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Gov. Ricketts, Education Commissioner Blomstedt Overview Back-to-School Plans

Gov. Ricketts, Education Commissioner Blomstedt Overview Back-to-School Plans
Courtesy Photo

Gov. Ricketts (podium) gives remarks at this morning’s press conference.

 Video from today’s briefing is available by clicking here.

 LINCOLN – This morning, Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt discussed plans for schools to resume in-class instruction this fall.  Schools in Nebraska closed their buildings in March and finished the spring semester through remote learning due to coronavirus.  Next month, students will return to school across the state.

Additionally, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) CEO Dannette R. Smith joined the Governor for today’s press briefing.  She announced new resources that the State will provide to help its federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in their ongoing response to the pandemic.

Gov. Ricketts: Back to School

  • Commissioner Blomstedt has been working tirelessly, in partnership with superintendents, to come up with protocols for schools to operate safely in the coming weeks.
  • There are many reasons why it’s important for schools to be open this fall.

o  Every child learns differently.  Remote learning can be less effective, and it’s important that we provide the highest quality education possible.

  • Not every parent is able to devote individual time and attention to oversee remote learning indefinitely.

o  Social isolation isn’t good for the well-being of kids.  They need interaction with their friends and the mentorship teachers provide.

o  Education promotes physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.

o  Kids battling food insecurity have better access to good nutrition when they’re in school.

  • As schools resume classes, local school boards and leaders are making the decisions that are right for their community.

o  The impact of the virus varies by community over time.

o  Some school facilities allow for more physical distancing than others.

o  I know that many Nebraskans will have strong opinions about how schools should operate.

  • We ask parents to be patient and gracious toward their school board members and superintendents.  These leaders are facing very difficult decisions about how to operate most safely and effectively for everyone involved.

Commissioner Blomstedt: Back to School

  • We’re looking at getting students in the classroom safely, and it will take all of our efforts to do this well.
  • We want to ensure we’re making decisions that are best for each district, each community, and each facility based on the conditions at hand.
  • The Nebraska Department of Education will have guidance on planning for a safe return to school.  It will be available online at www.launchne.com.
  • Our guidance documents have been built through collaboration with a number of partners, including the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, local health departments, and school districts.

 

DHHS CEO Smith:

  • Over the last three months, Nebraska’s federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) have shown that they play a critical role in addressing access to care for Nebraska’s most vulnerable citizens.
  • Health centers are a statewide system providing primary medical, dental, and behavioral health care for all, regardless of insurance status, ability to pay, primary language spoken, or cultural background.
  • Earlier this summer, DHHS received a proposal and budget request from the Health Center Association of Nebraska (HCAN) on behalf of its member FQHCs for $5 million.  This funding has been awarded by the State and will be used in the following ways:

o  Enhancing case management for health center patients

  • Each of the FQHCs will expand capacity at their call centers, which serve as the first stop for many patients.  Call center staff provide education, answer questions, schedule appointments, and provide assistance as patients seek to be tested.
  • Each of the FQHCs also employ community health workers, who provide referrals, triage patients, contact patients who have tested positive, provide guidance to patients to ensure they self-isolate as appropriate, and provide assistance via telehealth to patients managing chronic diseases.  The funds will support increasing this vital work.

o  Expanding testing and contact tracing

  • With additional funding, FQHCs will be able to add additional staff and supplies in order to increase testing and contact tracing capacity.

o  Stabilizing health center infrastructure

  • Nebraska’s FQHCs currently serve just over 115,000 patients.  In recent years, they have seen roughly 10-12% annual growth in the number of patients served, and they expect this year to be no exception.

Gov. Ricketts: Test Nebraska

  • All Nebraskans are now eligible for testing through Test Nebraska.
  • We are now partnering with hospitals across the state to provide testing through Test Nebraska.

o  We’ve doubled the number of days we tested in Lincoln this week, and we are planning to expand slots.

o  We increased the number of time slots significantly in Omaha, and we are preparing to announce a second Test Nebraska location there.

o  We will continue to adjust testing to meet demand.

  • I encourage Nebraskans to sign up and schedule a time to get tested.
  • Go to TestNebraska.com to find the latest schedule.

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

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