In August 2021, Nebraska had the lowest unemployment of any state in the country at 2.2%. This was a record low for Nebraska.
Since 1976, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has measured the monthly unemployment for all 50 states. Only four states have ever had a record unemployment that was lower than Nebraska.
Virginia (11/2000) and New Hampshire (06/1987) had a low of 2.1% unemployment. The current record is a tie between Connecticut (08/2000) and Hawaii (01/2020) at 2%.
On September 27th, I had a chance to interview Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska. I was surprised to learn that COVID began in Nebraska in February 2020.
For most of us, COVID began in March 2020. There was a very special reason why Nebraska was one of our first lines of defense against this virus.
The Nebraska Biocontainment Unit (NBU) is one of only three biocontainment units in the country. In February, 13 Americans, who were passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, were sent to this facility.
On February 7, 2020, 57 Americans were flown from Wuhan, China to Nebraska to be quarantined at Camp Ashland. It was around this time that Gov. Ricketts got his first briefing from federal officials.
One of the experts said, “Governor, this is a virus. We can’t stop it. We can only slow it down to preserve hospital capacity.”
When I asked him what it was like to work with Trump and Biden, he pointed out that both administrations have had good people working on COVID. Gov. Ricketts told me that the Biden administration’s pandemic coordinator, Jeffrey Zients, was doing a very good job.
One of the many differences between the two administrations was their direct contact with governors on the weekly conference calls. These calls are important because they give our governors a chance to inform the president directly.
During the Trump administration, there were 40 conference calls between the administration and our 50 governors. According to Gov. Ricketts, Vice President Pence chaired 38 of those 40 calls while President Trump was on 8 of those calls.
President Biden has not attended any of these weekly calls since he took office. Vice President Harris was on one call for five minutes. She thanked the governors and then hung up.
Gov. Ricketts spent March and April 2020 working with Nebraska’s state legislature to pass $83.6 million dollars in coronavirus relief. This spending included personal protective gear.
At the same time, Congress passed the CARES Act, which brought $7.8 billion of assistance to Nebraska. The largest portion was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which Gov. Ricketts believes was well-timed and helped a lot of workers stay employed.
As of October 11, 2020, 88.3% of the population over 65 is fully vaccinated according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To put that number in perspective, 84% of seniors nationwide are fully vaccinated.
Vermont has the highest percentage of seniors vaccinated of any state at 96%. Nebraska has vaccinated almost three times as many seniors as Vermont.
In Nebraska, COVID hospitalizations reached their peak last winter at nearly 1,000 patients. Gov. Ricketts thought it was unlikely that hospitalizations this winter would be as bad as 2020.
In the middle of COVID, Nebraska’s voters passed Initiative 427, which expanded Medicaid eligibility by 90,000 Nebraskans. I asked the governor what the state was doing to expand the number of doctors and nurses to handle the higher workload.
Ricketts said that Nebraska could do medical license reform as they previously did to recruit nurses. Spouses of active duty military, who are teachers, have found it easier to get jobs in Nebraska because the state government has cleared the hurdles to make it easier for teachers to transfer.
After I finished all my questions, the governor wanted to talk about the vaccine. First, he reminded me that the previous record for a vaccine was four years.
Gov. Ricketts told me that he was “very grateful” for Operation Warp Speed. That said, Gov. Ricketts believes that the speed of the rollout is part of the reason the skeptics don’t know whom to believe.
Gov. Ricketts pointed out that it didn’t help that Dr. Anthony Fauci moved the goal posts on herd immunity.
In December 2020, Dr. Fauci admitted, “We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70% to 90%. But, I’m not going to say 90%.”
As I was listening to the governor, I came to the conclusion that firing Dr. Fauci could convince more skeptics to get vaccinated.
America needs a public health official who has credibility across the political spectrum. Even lying by omission is unacceptable, to say nothing about the NIH funding gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. He has been published in numerous outlets, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.
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