Festersen: No plans to bring back Omaha's mask mandate 'at this time'

Pete Festersen
Posted at 3:48 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 00:51:25-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that people vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks indoors in parts of the country where the pandemic is surging.

According to a CDC COVID-19 data tracker, Douglas County currently has a "high" transmission rate.

Given all that, could Omaha follow another city like Kansas City, Missouri, and bring back a mask mandate?

Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen told 3 News Now that isn’t planned “at this time.”

“We are in contact with public health experts and continue to monitor the data, but a new mask ordinance has not been proposed at this time,” Festersen said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

The Omaha City Council enacted a mask mandate last August but it expired in late May. An emergency ordinance would need to be introduced and six councilmembers would need to approve it.

Festersen said the council believes getting vaccinated is the best route to getting ahead of the coronavirus.

“We continue to believe the most important thing right now is that we get as many people vaccinated as possible," he said.

Dr. James Lawler, the co-executive director for the Global Center for Health Security at Nebraska Medicine, told 3 News Now almost all COVID-related hospitalizations have one thing in common.

“Over 97% of hospital admissions from COVID-19 are unvaccinated individuals,” Lawler said.

As of Wednesday, just under 53% of residents in Douglas County were fully vaccinated. That number has increased about seven percent since the end of the mask mandate was announced in early May.

The Douglas County Health Department reported 112 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the most reported in one day since 126 were reported on May 3. Another 100 cases were announced Wednesday.

The 112 coronavirus cases on Tuesday were more than the number of cases reported one year ago to the day.

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse told 3 News Nowthat mask requirements for all should be a consideration.

“I’m not able to mandate that. That’s not a power that my office holds, but I think it’s something that local government bodies should consider,” Huse said.

A list of upcoming coronavirus vaccination clinics in Douglas County can be found here.

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