OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The coronavirus has hurt a vast majority of Nebraska's businesses and about one in six of them are worried that it will force them to close their doors permanently, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report from the Nebraska Business Development Center at the University of Nebraska Omaha highlights the sweeping damage caused by the virus and the steps taken to keep it from spreading, including business closures and social-distancing measures.

The report said 87% of Nebraska businesses have been hurt by the pandemic. The hardest-hit industries have been the arts, entertainment and recreation; health care and social assistance; educational services; and food services.

The results came from the first of two planned surveys that state officials will use to help them decide what they can do to help companies recover. The initial survey of nearly 8,000 Nebraska businesses was conducted from April 15-24, and the second is scheduled for June.

“This has a huge impact on Nebraska businesses, and what this survey kind of does is quantify what we qualitatively already know,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said Tuesday.

Ricketts said businesses were generally most concerned about accessing cash to stay afloat, the duration of the pandemic, and the drop in consumer confidence and spending.

Cathy Lang, the center's director and a former Nebraska economic development administrator, said the the impact on local companies has been “vast, touching every part of Nebraska and every industry in Nebraska.”

Lang said most businesses reported losing revenue but were still trying to maintain their workforce, even though unemployment claims have recently surged to record highs. About two-thirds of the businesses surveyed said they had either applied for federal coronavirus assistance or were considering it.

Ricketts also announced that he won't be renewing an executive order to prevent landlords from evicting tenants. The order is expected to expire at the end of the month. Ricketts said he's not renewing it because most residents have now received federal coronavirus assistance and should have money to pay before they fall further behind.

He also said he will extend an executive order allowing local governments to meet using video-conferencing services until the end of June, but will not renew the order after that deadline.

Meanwhile, public health officials reported two more coronavirus deaths and 277 new confirmed cases in Nebraska as of Monday.

The newest numbers brought the state's COVID-19 death toll to 125 and the total number of positive cases to 10,625, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. More than 70,100 people in Nebraska have been tested for the disease.

The number of new patients has been trending downward since a peak of 677 new cases on May 7, but public health officials say it's important to continue taking precautions such as social distancing.

Nebraska's hospital capacity for treating patients with the virus is fairly stable. The state's hospitals report that 46% of their beds, 40% of their intensive care unit beds and 77% of their ventilators are available for use if needed.

For some infected people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe illness or death. But for most people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.


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