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Come Saturday, 27 of the state's 93 counties will be clear of most restrictions prompted by the coronavirus.

The nine-county Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department will be the third local health district to move to Phase 4 of the state's reopening plan. 

Counties impacted are Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Perkins and Red Willow.

Last week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said the North Central District Health Department will also move to Phase 4 status starting Saturday.

Those counties are Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce and Rock.

Nine counties in the Loup Basin Health Department jurisdiction were the first to move into Phase 4 on Friday.

Phase 4 loosens restrictions on private and public gatherings, moving into a recommendation and guidance phase for limitations in restaurants, bars and other public and private locations.

In most instances, counties moving to Phase 4 have reported relatively few — or no —  coronavirus cases.

In Perkins County, however, where restrictions are to ease Saturday, officials just last week closed the city hall in Grant, its library and swimming pool and ended its American Legion baseball season prematurely in response to an outbreak at a local nursing home.

Golden Ours Convalescent Home reported positive cases in 12 of 28 residents and nine of 30 employees from July 14 to July 24, the North Platte Telegraph reported.

"Even with a recent upward trend of COVID-19 cases due to a cluster we’re actively managing, the health district is still reporting the lowest numbers in Nebraska," said Myra Stoney, the Southwest Nebraska district's health director.

"The transition from Phase 3 to Phase 4 of the DHMs does not change an individual’s personal responsibility for reducing virus transmission. Practicing safety measures such as maintaining good social distancing, wearing a face covering when appropriate, washing hands frequently and staying home when you are sick is everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect your friends, family, and neighbors."

Officials said Phase 3 restrictions elsewhere in the state, including Omaha and Lincoln, have been extended through Aug. 31, but progress in reducing the spread of the virus will continue to be monitored.

Lincoln tightened those restrictions earlier this month through a mask mandate ordered by the local health director. A similar step is expected soon in Omaha.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has said the state is reviewing the legality of those local measures.


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On Twitter @LJSdon

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