The three districts — the Loup Basin Public Health Department, Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department and North Central District Health Department — have seen increases in case numbers ranging from 58% to more than 146% over the past month.
In Phase 4, outdoor venues can operate at full capacity and indoor venues such as arenas and event centers can operate at 75% capacity. In addition, it makes social distancing a recommendation rather than a mandate.
Health officials say they do not believe the increases in cases are directly related to the loosening of restrictions.
Loup Basin Public Health Department was the first department to move to Phase 4, on July 23. Of the three health districts, it has seen the smallest increase in cases.
“We never thought that when we moved into Phase 4 that we would see anything less, yet the number of new cases is still quite manageable,” said Charles Cone, executive director of Loup Basin, which is headquartered in Broken Bow.
Cone said he does not believe any of the new cases can be attributed directly to the relaxing of health restrictions.
“Community spread, especially from travel outside the district, is still a concern and will continue to be,” Cone said in an email. “Social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks all help to prevent the spread, and moving to Phase 4 didn’t change those recommendations. If we would have reverted back to Stage 2 from Stage 3, I couldn’t say with any certainty that our numbers would have increased at a slower rate.”