This accurate screen shot was from about a year and ten days ago when Nebraska was in the midst of another crisis, the devastating floods of 2019. It popped up in my digital memories on March 14 and I have been trying to write this article ever since, but things have been …. wild. As you all know. Anyway, this screenshot is over a year old, but the sentiment still stands.
Following in the footsteps of the deranged orange “businessman” assing the country, Governor Peter Ricketts has been holding daily press conferences theoretically to update the people on the many strong, intelligent decisions he is making to keep his constituents safe, but in reality these “press conferences” are just advertisements for his friends and a daily reason to pat himself on the back. He keeps insisting (like his orange friend) that Nebraska is “ahead of the curve” without offering any proof at all. He says the reason we are ahead of the curve is because everyone is doing such a great job of following the “no more than ten people at a gathering” suggestion which is totally ineffective if one of those ten people is sick (which, at this point, is not only possible, but likely). Also, we hate to break it to little Peter, but people are not actually following this vague suggestion. I am in a COVID Nebraska group on FB and every day people are posting pictures from their communities of restaurants and bars and bowling alleys with full parking lots, block-long lines to get into Sams Clubs and Costcos, and people generally people-ing and certainly not following the Governor’s vague direction to “practice social distancing”. According to Peter, you should only stay home if you are symptomatic or have travelled to a location that has a known problem with COVID-19 such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, or Kansas City. He claims he is following the advice of the big brains at the Nebraska Medical Center, but even those folks are saying social distancing is not enough as they prepare for a shortage of ventilators and hospital beds. In fact, Nebraska made this list of the four states that are not doing nearly enough to combat this pandemic.
Meanwhile at the daily pressers, Ricketts continues to insist that we are doing everything we can do and that no matter how many positive cases are confirmed, he will not consider any stricter steps to keep people at home and save lives. He is basing all this on what he views as low numbers of positive cases, but how can we know how many positives we have if Nebraskans can’t even get tested?
It is not just the lack of testing and the false, misleading optimism of Ricketts that has me raging this week. When asked what he is doing to stop evictions of workers who are without a job due to COVID-19, his advice is to “call your landlord”. When asked what workers can do if their employers are not following the CDC recommendations for social distancing and sanitary working conditions, his advice is “talk to your manager”. When asked if non-violent inmates will be released from prison to reduce overcrowding and slow the spread of the virus among incarcerated populations, his response was “we don’t have any non-violent inmates”, which is obviously bullshit. He did let us all know that he is using the incarcerated population to make hand sanitizer, which we presume the state will then sell at a huge profit, as incarcerated persons earn literally pennies an hour. He wants us to “support local business” and “tip big”, but just exactly how in the hell are people without an income or a light at the end of the tunnel supposed to “tip big”? Not everyone is still getting an allowance from their billionaire daddy like some people we know.
And most infuriating of all, he was asked *ONCE* about the Medicaid expansion which he has illegally refused to implement in the TWO YEARS since the people demanded it, and which would certainly save lives. His reply was that he was not talking about Medicaid and that the reporter should set up an appointment with Kay Orr’s grandson to talk about Medicaid “offline”. Kay Orr’s grandson then replied that the Governor would not be available to talk about Medicaid at any time. So, the local “reporters” have simply stopped asking about it. Why do they refuse to ask?
Meanwhile in Italy, Mayors are pleading in online videos for people to stay home, and have increased the fine for being caught out in the streets from a couple hundred dollars to a few thousand. In India where there are 519 positive tests and 10 deaths, they have shut down the entire country for three weeks in an effort to save as many lives as possible. In Spain, an ice skating rink is being used as a temporary morgue. Iran is digging mass graves. And in Nebraska … it’s fine, everything is fine. Totally fine. Just keep washing those hands, and we’ll see you in church on Easter Sunday when America is “back open for business”.