The president and chief medical officer of Regional West Health Services, parent company of Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, have asked the Scotts Bluff County Commissioners and the mayors of Scottsbluff, Gering, and Terrytown to require and enforce CDC COVID-19 guidelines, including mandatory masking.
A letter from President John Mentgen and Chief Medical Officer Matthew Bruner says enforcing the guidelines for everyone is the best approach to slow the surge of positive COVID-19 cases in the Panhandle.
Governor Pete Ricketts made it clear at a Lincoln new conference Friday morning that there aren’t going to be mask mandates because while Lincoln and Omaha can institute them on their own, he won’t grant permission anywhere else.
Ricketts has said he believes there’s not enough law enforcement to enforce mandates, and they could backfire by breeding resistance. He also points out that masks are just one tool in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
Scottsbluff is currently one of the top coronavirus hot spots in the country on a per-capita basis, and Chief State Medical Officer Dr Gary Anthone said at the news conference that Regional West has turned to other hospitals for help.
Ricketts also unveiled a chart showing how COVID-19 restrictions will increase as hospital capacity shrinks. COVID-19 patients currently take up about 20% of the state’s hospital beds. He’s set the trigger for new limits at those patients reaching 25%.
Other restrictions at 25% include limiting bars to carry-out, delivery and drive-through services only and limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people and outside to 25.
Ricketts has already ordered hospitals to postpone all of elective surgeries – those that can be delayed 4 weeks or more – to preserve hospital capacity.