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Dr. Pour questioned on COVID-19 data as mask debate continues within Omaha City Council

Posted at 8:00 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 03:02:04-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Omaha City Council heard from the public about the city’s mask ordinance.

The council is debating if they should extend the ordinance set to expire October 20, but many are questioning the data and calling it a government overreach.

“I think you should listen to the experts,” Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said.

Dr. Pour has repeatedly said masks can help slow the spread of COVID-19, yet councilwoman Aimee Melton has hesitations.

“I do wear a mask out of respect for others, even though I don’t think it works,” Melton said. “I’m going to wear one because maybe I’m wrong.”

Dr. Pour says since a mask mandate was issued, the county's COVID positivity rate has lowered from 10.2 percent to 8.7 percent, but it is starting to rise again as Nebraska has relaxed other efforts to stem the spread.

RELATED: 'Things are getting worse': Health officials warn pandemic could get much worse in NE

She adds face coverings and social distancing are still strong recommendations to combat the virus.

According Dr. Pour, there are always going to be a few that disagree with the majority of health experts.

“Us who live it every day and read the literature about it, we just want to convey what we know," Dr. Pour said.

Melton asked Dr. Pour what metrics are needed in order to end a mask mandate.

Melton says some of the COVID-19 data can be skewed depending on the number of tests, adding she needs more guidance from Dr. Pour.

“What I was hoping to hear from her is maybe giving us maybe a little more definitive answer on when she could see ending the mask mandate,” Melton said. “At this point in time, it doesn’t sound like she would be willing to end the mask mandate until sometime next year.”

Melton adds it's Dr. Pour's job to issue a mask mandate, not city council.

According to Dr. Pour that’s not necessarily true, adding she’s received push back from state leaders.

“The governor and the governor’s office, as well as the attorney general’s office felt… the local health director in Douglas County in the city of Omaha didn’t have the authority to issue a mask mandate.”

Melton disagrees. She believes Dr. Pour just doesn’t want to challenge the governor’s office.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, droplets play a role in the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC adds clinical and laboratory studies show masks reduce the spray of these droplets when the mask is worn over the nose and mouth.