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Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday it's time to move on from the coronavirus emergency that has governed and limited activities in the state and return to a normal life now.

"It's time for people to get back to normal with the understanding that the virus will be here forever," the governor said, just as other viruses will continue to be. 

"The risk for COVID-19 is now low," he said.

Ricketts said he believes children should return to classrooms throughout the state this fall with no masks or vaccinations required.

Schools should "make accommodations for people who may be at risk," he said. 

The governor told a news conference he will formally end Nebraska's coronavirus state of emergency effective at the end of the day on June 30, clearing the path for resumption of normal activities.

The state of emergency was declared on March 13, 2020. 

The state's contract with TestNebraska, the company that has provided COVID-19 testing for Nebraskans, will end on July 31, Ricketts said, with the final testing date through that site set for July 18. 

"Nebraska did a great job with this pandemic," he said. "Our health care workers did a great job."

The latest statistics count 224,330 cases in the state since the outbreak a year and a half ago with 2,259 deaths. Hospitalizations have dropped from 987 last November to 27.

"I encourage people to get the (COVID-19) vaccine," Ricketts said.  "The vaccine works."

Ricketts noted that he focused Nebraska's battle against the virus on maintaining hospital capacity and the success in achieving that goal is "one reason we are letting this emergency come to an end."

Touching on another matter in answer to a question, the governor said he would like to see the U.S. Senate reach bipartisan agreement on an infrastructure bill that would provide federal funding for traditional infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and broadband expansion.   

"That is the kind of infrastructure bill I would like to see," Ricketts said.

"Focus on those (projects) and also make sure we're not raising taxes," he said. "There are lots of coronavirus dollars left over; there are funds available for that."            

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.

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