01/07: COVID Risk Dial, Interstate 80 and legislative session
Lancaster County COVID Risk Dial moves to red
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department COVID-19 Risk Dial shifted to red, indicating severe risk, on Jan. 4. The dial has not been in the red since January of 2021. Health Director Pat Lopez said that over the past few weeks case and positivity rates have quickly increased, hospitalizations and deaths remain high and the large number of cases is causing difficulty with contact tracing. From Dec. 25 through Jan. 7, there have been 24,847 COVID-19 cases in Nebraska.
Nebraska leads the country in overcrowded prisons
Nebraska has surpassed Alabama as the state with the most overcrowded prisons in the nation, according to a World-Herald analysis of correctional data. The data, which was released on Jan. 3, shows that Nebraska prisons held 5,250 inmates at the end of 2020– that’s 48.5% over design capacity. Addressing prison overcrowding will be a major subject of the 2021 legislative session, which began Jan. 5.
Nebraska to widen 7.5 miles of Interstate 80
The Nebraska Department of Transportation added a 7.5 mile 6-lane Interstate 80 widening project to its 2022-2025 plan for state transportation improvement. The planned widening is between Lincoln and Grand Island, from Northwest 56th Street to the Pleasant Dale exit. Construction on the estimated $130 project is expected to begin in 2024 and end in 2027.
U.S. reports more than 1 million new COVID cases in a day
The United States had a record 1,082,549 new COVID cases on Jan. 3, according to data from John Hopkins University. This brings the country’s total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to more than 56 million. As of Jan. 3, the nation’s seven-day average of daily new cases is 480, 273– that is higher than any other country tracked by John Hopkins. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the country’s seven-day average for hospitalizations is 32% higher than it was last week. As of Jan. 3, about 89,000 Americans were hospitalized with COVID. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the omicron variant makes up more than half of the country’s infections.
UNL to require masks indoors– and during Husker games
The University of Nebraska- Lincoln will require masks indoors and at all UNL events until further notice, said Chancellor Ronnie Green in an email. Faculty, staff and in-person students will be required to take a re-entry test at the start of the semester. “None of us wanted to start 2022 preparing for another surge of COVID-19,” Green said. “But the omicron variant has rapidly taken hold, and we need to take these actions to help ensure the safety of our campus community.”
2022 legislative session begins in Nebraska
The 2022 legislative session kicked off Jan. 5 with proposals from senators regarding abortion, gun rights and more. It is a 60-day session and the second session of the 107th legislature. Check our website for updates.
Blackberry smartphones shut down
As part of an “End of Life” program, Blackberry stopped service for their classic smartphones on Jan. 4. Android-powered devices with the Blackberry name were not affected, but all devices running on Blackberry’s legacy software and operating systems “no longer reliably function,” the company said. Blackberry is moving from mobile phones to a software-based business model this year.
Initial round of broadband funding to connect nearly 12,400 Nebraska homes to high-speed internet
The Nebraska Public Service Commission granted $17.8 million to internet providers through the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Program, which aims to bring high-speed internet to rural areas that lack sufficient broadband. This will bring broadband internet to nearly 12,400 homes in Nebraska. This is part of the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act (LB 388), which appropriated $40 million to expand broadband access over the next two years.
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen is running for re-election
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen is running for re-election, according to a Jan. 4 announcement from his office. Evnen is the 27th secretary of state in Nebraska and was elected in November of 2018. The secretary of state serves a four-year term.