I have been watching Ricketts’s press conferences almost every day and taking notes, mostly in an attempt to keep track of his many lies and many changes in his story from day to day. I am wildly disappointed in the local coverage and softball questions, so I am going to try to do quick recaps as often as I can. Yesterday was pretty gross so we will start there.
The tl:dr version is this: Test Nebraska is not tracking any data, their website is filled with glitches, their call center is understaffed, and their test results are questionable.
As of May 12, 2020, statewide we have:
- 48% of hospital beds available
- 41% of ICU beds available
- 76% of ventilators available
Of course if those beds and ventilators are not in the towns in which they are needed this is hardly helpful, but Ricketts has never mentioned that and the press has also never brought that up (that I am aware of). Moving on.
- A lot of people over 65 tried to sign up for testing through Test Nebraska now that they have finally “turned on the feature” where those over 65 are prioritized. This has caused their system to become overwhelmed, and people are being told to “check back” for more test times. The call center is not able to handle the volume of calls.
- There are no testing times available in Lincoln for people over 65, despite the testing supposedly being opened up specifically for them. There were no options offered for potential future dates – just check back. Ricketts said there is “lots of capacity for testing” despite that obviously not being the case.
- 2943 tests have been returned from Test Nebraska, and “about” 100 of those that came back were positive. Ricketts did not give an exact number of positives.
- Average turnaround time for Test Nebraska test results is 1.78 days.
- Test Nebraska does not track the number of people with symptoms who test positive. They also do not track the number of asymptomatic people who test positive. Or the number of people with symptoms who test negative. You know, basic public health information.
- Test Nebraska does not track the number of people who cannot get tested after requesting it. His answer is to “keep checking back” as the only way to get tested through Test Nebraska is by scheduling online and the online scheduler doesn’t go out past a few days.
- Test Nebraska does not have a date for call center expansion, nor do they have a date for when more people will be able to get tested.
- Test Nebraska testing sites are mobile so they move around the state every couple of days. If you are not one of the few people to be chosen to get tested when they are in your town, you will just have to wait until they come back. They do not know when they will be back.
- A reporter asked about someone who, after finally jumping through all the hoops and was finally able to get tested, logged in to check their test results and was told they need to schedule an appointment to get tested. Ricketts said he “had not heard of that before” and he asked the reporter to get more information so he could look into it. Note: I am in a COVID group on FB, and this issue has come up A LOT. I’m guessing the only reason Ricketts hadn’t heard about it is because there is no clear information on who to reach out to for questions about testing or the Test Nebraska website.
Moving on: Contact Tracing
- Quarantine compliance is tracked by the health department texting the person who has tested positive to remind them they really should stay home for the next 14 days. This is one of the 10,000 times Pete said “Nebraskans do the right thing” today even though anyone who has poked their head out from under their covers in the last two months can see that is total horseshit.
- When asked why contact tracing is so important if they don’t even track it, he again said “Nebraskans do the right thing” and then said we don’t have enough cops to sit on everyone’s doorstep. As if the only two choices are a cop on every doorstep or a text once a week asking you to pretty please stay home.
- He then told the reporter to “ask Felicia” Thursday night at his weekly townhall. Pete HATES answering questions and will always try to lob them off on someone else.
- When asked if there were plans to expand mobile testing beyond One World in South Omaha, he rambled on for a bit about One World being the “face of the community” and then said they could also get tested at CHI.
- When asked about the number of COVID patients in hospitals, the answer was there were 192 COVID patients out of 3800 *beds*. A percentage of COVID patients to other patients in hospitals was never given.
- When asked if we have reached peak, Dr. Anthone said the models keep telling the peak is pushed back but we have “flattened the peak” (WTF?) and maintained health care resources, and then Anthone proceeded to thank hospital CEOs for all their hard work. Pete then had to step in with an awkward, “uh, thanks to all the doctors and nurses, too”. When you out-asshole even Pete Ricketts, that is really something, so let’s all take a moment to recognize Dr. Anthone for that “accomplishment”.
- This week is also something Pete laughably calls “Peace Officers Week” so you will all be relieved to hear that state troopers morale is high and they are good at solving problems.
Long term care numbers as of May 12, 2020:
- 292 residents have tested positive
- 218 staff have tested positive
- 62 people associated with long term care have died. No specifics on whether they were residents or staff.
- When asked why 2/3rds of the deaths have been related to nursing facilities, Dr. Anthone said it is “all about lung capacity” and said the elderly, obese, and those with pulmonary issues are most at risk for death. It sure would be nice to know how many of those deaths were staff. Incidentally, can anyone shine any light on why Carter Place in Blair was completely evacuated and then residents were moved right back in?
- When asked about how those without internet access can sign up for Test Nebraska, in the past Ricketts has suggested people turn to non-profits and community centers to use their internet to get signed up, because one of the things he is best at is putting the responsibility off on others. Today he just said something about how they are “working on other ways to sign up” which is obviously just empty words that don’t mean anything. Then he gave the website address in English and Spanish. Because people without internet access should definitely be apprised of the website they can’t use.
- When asked about who makes the final call for reopening in each health district, Ricketts said he and Dr. Anthone work with the local health departments, walk through data regarding hospital capacity and percent positives, and then he and Dr. Anthone have the last word. (And of course they just force the districts to reopen regardless of what the data says.)
- Anthone and Ricketts will only do another half-ass “shutdown” when there is only 30% capacity left in the hospital serving the health district in question. If the numbers “appear to be getting better”, they may decide to lower that to 20% or 10%. Don’t ask me how the numbers can appear to be getting better while hospital availability shrinks, that must be some new white guy math I’m not versed in.
Key takeaways from today: Test Nebraska is not tracking any data, their website is filled with glitches, their call center is understaffed, and their test results are questionable. Pete has had a variety of excuses about why their percentage of positives is so low, even though you have to have symptoms AND be in a high risk group to get tested. He has said the numbers are low because they are testing the “general population” (not true), he has said numbers are low because they are testing asymptomatic first responders and frontline workers (also not true), and he also said in the same breath that they are prioritizing those with symptoms. At this point, I have no idea whom they are actually testing. They opened up testing to those over 65, and their system immediately crashed, leaving scores of at-risk elders in the lurch. Peter refuses to give exact numbers of positives. He refuses to disclose numbers for nursing homes and meatpacking facilities. Pandemic Pete was unfit to lead this state before this crisis, and now his incompetence is simply glaring.