Omaha World Herald. Nov. 21, 2020

At the end of the tunnel, part of the light is from the promise of good sports

It’s a fall Saturday in Nebraska.

Let’s take a little break from the heavy news of the day and think about better times ahead — in sports.

In the matter closest at hand, the reason many of us drank from our lucky coffee mug this morning or are wearing that special underwear, the Huskers have a chance to win their second consecutive football game for the first time since Sept. 21 last year.

The World-Herald endorses that.

And we revel a bit in some other promising Husker news that provides a mental lift as we await the post-pandemic return of a normal pacing of sports events.

The already-strong Husker volleyball team this month signed what World-Herald sportswriters tell us might be the best recruiting class ever in any sport.

It’s quite a tale. As our Dirk Chatelain told it, volleyball coach John Cook, at a camp in 2017, told five 14-year-old girls they could be part of national championship teams if they all became Huskers.

Their high school careers led Kennedi Orr, Lindsay Krause, Ally Batenhorst, Lexi Rodriguez and Rylee Gray to be the Nos. 1, 2, 3, 10 and 70 recruits in the nation, and all of them signed to be Huskers. They are joined by Whitney Lauenstein, who is ranked 16th.

Notably, three of these young women, Krause, Lauenstein and Gray, are Nebraskans. This shows how a strong collegiate program can make a sport or academic pursuit popular in a region, creating dreams, role models and coaching expertise. That’s long been the case with football in Nebraska (we also could argue, with a sly smile, that it’s true of journalism), and is a feather in Cook’s hat and a credit to the state to have done so much to boost a women’s sport.

Creighton University is caught up in the wave, too, and the Big Ten is a true volleyball power conference.

Volleyball is an extremely exciting spectator sport that’s going to be all the more fun to watch for the next few years, it appears.

This has been Husker-centric commentary, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t express some excitement about Creighton basketball. The top-10 Jays were interrupted mid-game in March and promise another strong season.

One day, maybe, the Huskers will be able to create a real intrastate rivalry. The perennial hope that Nebraska basketball will cease to be an oxymoron (c’mon, this is about sports; let’s not be too serious) was boosted by coach Fred Hoiberg getting a commitment from the program’s first-ever five-star recruit, guard Bryce McGowens of Piedmont, South Carolina.

One day, we’ll be in the stadium or arena again, cheering Nebraska teams on. Today, we can all pull for football win No. 2. We have promising times ahead.


McCook Daily Gazette. Nov. 20, 2020

Holiday season brings special stress this year

The holiday season can be a joyous time as we reunite with family and friends, as well as a time of despair for those who may not be able connect with loved ones or who are alone.

Domestic disputes and, sadly, suicides become more common during a normal holiday season, but this year’s pandemic is likely to magnify the problem by orders of magnitude.

Even those of us with stable home lives and mental health are prone to feel emotional distress, anxiety, confusion and powerlessness in the face of the risk of contracting COVID-19 or the need to curtail normal holiday activities.

If you’re feel like there’s no way to solve your problem or address your pain, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services wants you to know help is available.

“No matter how much pain you’re experiencing right now, you’re not alone,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Feeling suicidal doesn’t mean that you are weak or flawed. It only means that you feel hopeless in the moment. There is a way back to feeling normal again and there are people who want to help you get there. With time and support, you can overcome your problems and the pain and help keep you safe. If you, a loved one, or someone you know feels suicidal, please seek help immediately. Let’s save the lives of Nebraskans.”

Warning signs of suicide include:

• Increased alcohol and drug use

• Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself

• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

• Aggressive and/or anxious behavior

• Sleeping too little or too much

• Withdrawal from friends, family and community

• Dramatic mood swings

• Impulsive or reckless behavior

Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If have a friend or loved one engaged in any of the following, of if you recognize these symptoms in yourself, please seek help:

• Giving away possessions

• Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers

• Saying goodbye to friends and family

If you are near any items that you are thinking about using to hurt yourself, put them away and out of reach. If you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, stop. It will only make you feel more out of control.

To keep yourself from feeling suicidal, get the help and treatment you need, build your support network with friends, family, your minister or pastor, and support groups.Take one step at a time.

Warning signs aren’t always obvious, and they may vary from person to person. Some people make their intentions clear, while others keep suicidal thoughts and feelings secret. Just like signs of a stroke or heart attack, know the warning signs of suicide to save a life.

If someone is imminently threatening suicide and has the access and the means to do so, call 911.

Need to talk or get immediate help in a crisis?

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.

Nebraska Family Helpline, (888) 866-8660. They can engage Crisis Response Teams

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Rural Response Hotline, (800) 464-0258

Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish), or text TalkWithUs for English or Hablanos for Spanish to 66746.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116


Lincoln Journal Star. Nov. 22, 2020

Nebraska at critical point in virus fight

As of Thursday morning, there have been at least 106,617 COVID-19 cases and 838 deaths in Nebraska since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.

More troubling, over the last two months, those numbers have dramatically increased, making Nebraska one of the hottest of coronavirus hot spots.

The state’s seven-day rolling average is 123 cases per 100,000 people. That, according to a New York Times database, is the fifth highest rate in the nation, behind North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa.

Beyond the geography, what do those states have in common?

All have Republican governors. None, until the last week, had mask mandates.

On Nov. 14, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum ordered the wearing of masks in his state, to, he said, help doctors and nurses and a health care system that has been overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.

On Tuesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds followed suit, while saying, “No one wants to do this. ... I don’t want to do this.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, however, continues to resist a statewide mask mandate, despite the urging from Nebraska Medicine, which has provided guidance to the state throughout the pandemic, and the pleas of doctors, nurses and teachers who encounter the virus and its impact on a daily basis.

Ricketts argues that masks should be used voluntarily and that a mandate would trigger resistance, not compliance.

But Ricketts’ voluntary approach has failed.

That can be confirmed anecdotally and statistically. In the counties where masks are not mandated, the percentage of mask wearers, by sight, is lower than in Lincoln and Omaha where masks are required, over Ricketts’ initial objections. And the infection rates in the non-metro counties is higher than in Douglas and Lancaster counties.

Nor do Ricketts’ actions in the face of the rising numbers work to address the dual pandemic dilemma of protecting public health while keeping businesses and the economy open.

Returning to restrictions on bars, restaurants and the size of gatherings will help to stem some of the virus’s spread. But those restrictions will bring a dampening economic effect and, likely, will put some restaurants and bars out of business.

In much the same manner as the Trump administration’s failure to craft a national anti-virus strategy pushed responsibility for dealing with the pandemic to states, Ricketts’ recalcitrance on masks has pushed that public health action down a level of government.

Contrary to the views of Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson, state law, recently unearthed by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, allows municipalities to require masks by ordinance.

Beatrice and Kearney have, in the last week, voted to require masks, and Grand Island and Hastings are considering mandates.

As for the rest of the state, the Journal Star editorial board joins the doctors, nurses, public health experts, educators and concerned citizens in urging Ricketts to require masks everywhere in Nebraska, creating a uniform measure to fight the virus, curb the rise in cases and bring a quicker end to the pandemic.