Health officials say Omaha mask mandate could be lifted soon

COVID cases and hospitalizations are declining
Posted at 6:39 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 19:39:25-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Omaha mask mandate was extended for at least a week on Tuesday. Health officials say though, case counts are declining steadily.

"We were hopeful a few weeks ago the down-swing in the omicron wave would be as steep downward as we saw steep upward and we are indeed seeing that. So, the curves are all going in the right direction. The number of cases, the number of people in the hospital are all coming down," Dr. Mark Rupp, Chief of Infectious Disease at UNMC said.

The benchmarks for the mask mandate to be lifted have not been met yet. Case counts must be below 200 per 100,000 on a seven-day total and hospital capacity needs to be at or below 85% for seven consecutive days.

Phil Rooney, Resource Specialist with the Douglas County Health Department, says the benchmarks may be met soon. He says we're quickly moving in the right direction.

"Unless the blip in hospital capacity turns out to be a trend, we expect to remain on track to have it lifted soon," Rooney said in an email to 3 News Now.

Rupp says while cases are moving in the right direction, there are still a lot of COVID-19 infections in the community. He adds that cases are still higher now than they were during the delta peak.

"We’re still seeing a lot of sick people. We have a lot of virus that’s still being circulated in the community and, while it’s coming down and we should celebrate that, we’re not out of the woods and we should not get complacent at this point," Rupp said.

He says he would like the benchmark for cases to be lower than what Dr. Huse has implemented because, with home testing and some people not testing at all, the current case counts are likely an underestimate.

Rupp believes the mask mandate did help lower cases and says the community needs to be open to implementing prevention tactics as we move forward.

"I think what we need to do to prepare for the future is be nimble and agile and recognize we’re sort of in this dance with the virus. And we’re going to go through these ebbs and flows of this disease and when we see things going up, the population needs to understand we may need to put things in place to help dampen things down."

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