Douglas Co. Health Director recommends temporary mask mandate; Ricketts and Stothert respond

lindsay huse.jpg
Posted at 10:33 AM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 15:22:32-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Tuesday, Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse recommended a temporary mask mandate for Douglas County.

She announced Tuesday that a request was sent to the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services for a directed health measure that would require masks in most indoor settings.

The requirement would be for most people over five years old. The mandate would be in effect until community transmission drops below a substantial level and eight weeks have passed since the vaccine is approved for kids 5 to 11 years old.

If approved by the state, the mandate could go into effect by Wednesday; however, the state could say no. The state has never approved a mask mandate.

If the state denies it, the Omaha City Council could take it up — but unless it's an emergency resolution, it wouldn't go into effect until early October.

The Douglas County Health Department provided the following statement regarding why the county should implement a mask mandate:

The Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) is pursuing a mask mandate for several reasons. Here are three key points:
  • Transmission rates in the county are double the CDC’s standard what is considered a high transmission rate. They are more than 15 times as high as our rates in early June.
  • Current vaccination rates are inadequate to slow the transmission rate.
  • Younger children cannot be vaccinated and locally four school rooms were closed in the first week of classes while another school district mandated masks for all grades. Your best protection against COVID-19 is to be vaccinated and wear a mask

At this time, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert is not in favor of another mask mandate.

She said:

"I do not support another mask mandate, and until this morning I was not aware that Dr. Huse had sent a request to the State of Nebraska for a Directed Health Measure for Douglas County.

Any new Directed Health Measures should be based on hospital capacity to care for patients, and vaccination rates.

The vaccination rate continues to increase, and the FDA’s final approval of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to increase the percentage of vaccinated persons.

I will continue to encourage vaccines and support programs to make vaccinations accessible to everyone."

When we reached out to the office of Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts about the request, a spokesperson for the governor said the state's position remains unchanged along with a link to a prior release from the office.

The release reads:

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts issued a statement following news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance attempting to re-impose mask guidance for vaccinated people.

“The CDC’s new guidance suggesting that vaccinated people wear masks indoors flies in the face of the public health goals that should guide the agency’s decision making. The CDC announcement only furthers the distrust many have with the CDC and does not help to encourage more people to get the vaccines that are helping bring the pandemic to a conclusion. The State of Nebraska will not be adopting their mask guidance.”

“Furthermore, I will reiterate my expectations for schools and universities in the fall. Schools should convene in person without mask or vaccine requirements.”

“Nebraskans exercise personal responsibility for their own health, and are encouraged to have a conversation with their doctor about the vaccine. These conversations will be important because the virus will be with us forever. Working together, we’ve successfully protected hospital capacity throughout the pandemic. It’s time for the CDC and the government to get out of the way, and to stop trying to tell people how to live their lives.”

3 News Now reporter Isabella Basco will have more tonight at 6 p.m.

Watch her remarks below or on the 3 News Now Facebook page.

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