12/10: UNL random testing reinstated, Husker legend hospitalized and Lied Center expansion
Ricketts says “no lockdowns or mandates” in response to Omicron
As of Dec. 3, six cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed in Nebraska- all in the southeast corner of the state. In response, Gov. Pete Ricketts released a statement saying “Nebraska has maintained one of the lowest coronavirus death rates and protected hospital capacity all without lockdowns, without mask mandates, and without vaccines mandates. We aren’t going to follow the Biden Administration or Dr. Fauci’s draconian policies.”
UNL switching back to random COVID testing for all, regardless of vaccination status
UNL will return to randomized COVID testing for all students, faculty and staff regardless of vaccination status on Jan. 16, the start of the spring semester. According to a university-wide message from Chancellor Ronnie Green, the Safer Community app will still be used for scheduling COVID tests and obtaining results but will no longer be required for campus building access. “I have been exceedingly proud of how our campus has adjusted and managed through an incredibly difficult pandemic,” Green said.
20-year-old UNL killed in Omaha crash
Kaitlyn Van Essen died the morning of Dec. 4 after being struck by an SUV while crossing the street in Omaha’s Blackstone District. Van Essen had been enrolled in Capitol Beauty School and was a graduate of Millard West. Police said they believe the man driving the SUV was intoxicated and had a blood-alcohol level over twice the legal limit. This comes after another woman was severely injured in a hit-and-run this summer in Blackstone. In July, Blackstone’s Business Improvement District released a proposal to make the area safer for pedestrians.
White House announces diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that no official delegation will be sent to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, but U.S. athletes can still attend and will have the government’s full support. The boycott is a result of China’s record of human rights violations. Psaki said the U.S. government chose a diplomatic boycott because it did not feel right penalizing athletes who had been training for this moment but still wanted to send a clear message.
Nebraska football legend hospitalized with COVID-19
Husker football legend Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers was hospitalized on Thanksgiving at the Nebraska Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19. The 70-year-old Heisman Trophy winner got better in the first few days but was admitted to the intensive care unit when his condition worsened on Nov. 30, said Denny Drake, Rodgers’ business partner of 25 years. Drake called Rodgers last Sunday and said he had taken a turn toward recovery and was feeling much better. As of Wednesday, Dec. 8, Rodgers was still in the hospital. He will not be attending the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Dec. 11 in New York City.
Delta Air Lines to stop flying from Lincoln
Delta Air Lines has decided to indefinitely suspend services to the Lincoln airport, effective Jan. 10. SkyWest Airlines, the regional carrier that operates flights between Lincoln and Minneapolis, said in a statement that the discontinuation of flights is “due to a lack of sustainable long-term demand.”
Kellogg’s strike continues as union rejects tentative contract agreement
Dec. 7 marks the ninth week since Kellogg workers in Omaha went on strike. Around 1,400 workers across all four Kellogg plants in the U.S. cast their votes on Dec. 5 for a tentative agreement that could put the strike to an end. The five-year deal would have given senior workers a three-percent raise with increasing yearly living wage but was downvoted by striking members of the BCTGM RTEC labor union. “We are open to modifying our proposals as long as the company is willing to do the same. Bargaining a sustainable agreement that benefits both Company and Union is our sole desire and we will stand firm until our goals are met,” the union said in a statement. The Kellogg Company website states, in order to continue to serve their customers, they must “continue executing the next phase of our contingency plan including hiring replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers.”
Vaccination rate climbs for children between ages 5 and 11
It’s been a month since Lincoln-Lancaster County opened vaccination clinics for children between 5 to 11 years old. As of Dec. 6, around 24.7% of the population ages 5 to 11 years old in the county has begun their vaccination process. It was 21% two weeks ago. A total of 7.1% children ages 5 to 11 years old are fully vaccinated.
Lied Center using $100 million for expansions and renovations
A three-story expansion to the Lied Center, located on 12th and Q St in Lincoln, will include a new educational theater and larger lobby area. Further additions will aim at making the space more accessible for guests with mobility issues and upgrading bathrooms. Of the $100 million, $75 million will be used for renovations at the school of music. The Kimball Recital Hall will be renovated and the Westbrook Music Building will be torn down. Director and Professor at UNL’s Glenn Korff School of Music Sergio Ruiz said he hopes that these major renovations enhance opportunities for students.
Chris Cuomo fired over involvement in brother’s sexual harrassment scandal
Cuomo Prime Time host Chris Cuomo has been fired by CNN for advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, following sexual assault allegations. Cuomo had previously been suspended after the New York attorney general’s office released documents showing Cuomo’s use of industry contacts to investigate his brother’s accusers. CNN released a statement saying that additional information had come to light during the investigation on Cuomo’s involvement.
Lee Enterprises Inc. blocks move by hedge fund to gain more control of Lee’s board
On Nov. 22, New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital announced in a press release that it is making a bid to buy Lee Enterprises Inc., the company that owns the Lincoln Journal Star, Omaha World-Herald and 75 more newspapers across the U.S. The hedge fund offered $24 per Lee stock, which amounts to about $141 million. The acquisition proposal was unsolicited, according to Lee. On Dec. 3, Lee rejected three nominees Alden nominated to its board of directors. Lee Enterprises stated that Alden made an error in the filing process and failed to meet the clear requirements of Lee’s bylaws. Nebraska Public Media said Alden is known for cutting a large number of jobs at companies it purchases to save cost.
Alex Allen Reuss to be director of Strategic Communications, Gov. Ricketts announces
Gov. Ricketts announced Dec. 8 that Alexis (Alex) Allen Ruess will be Director of Strategic Communications for his office. Ruess was a member of Senator Deb Fischer’s policy team in Washington, D.C., worked as a legislative advisor in the Office of Legislative Affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice and launched a Nebraska-based boutique communications firm called Penn Ave Strategies. She grew up in Bennington and now lives in Elkhorn. Reuss’s first day in office will be Dec. 13.
Contributors: Hanna Christensen, Chin Tung Tan and Ramey Vachal