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City council not planning on extending Omaha's mask mandate

The mandate is set to expire on May 25
Posted at 2:06 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 23:25:02-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - After a very out-of-the-ordinary year in 2020, the city of Omaha will be looking a little closer to normal this summer.

The city’s mask mandate will be expiring on May 25. It has been in place since last summer.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said that the city council is not planning to extend the mandate, something she is in support of knowing that they will be keeping an eye on case numbers and knowing that they have the ability to put in an emergency ordinance should the need arise.

“We continue to be cautious, I think everybody is," Stothert said. "I think there will be some people that will continue wearing a mask. They’ll be hesitant not to.”

When it comes to the numbers, Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said April was one of the lowest months for hospitalizations and deaths since the pandemic started.

There is a rolling average of 81 cases a day in Douglas County. In April there were 11 COVID-related deaths, the lowest seen since last April when 14 deaths were recorded.

COVID ICU numbers are also reaching records low, according to Pour, with 96 people being hospitalized for the virus, 28 in the ICU, and only nine needing ventilators.

Dr. Pour says even with these numbers, she would have probably preferred the mask mandate to go on a bit longer. But the more people get vaccinated, the more comfortable she is with masks not being worn.

“I do think we need to start talking about what really vaccination tells us and allows us to do," Pour said.

Over half a million have been vaccinated in the county, and Pour is expecting half the population to be fully vaccinated by mid-May.

She did add the demand for vaccines is slowing down. The county is not requesting any more vaccines for next week, instead focusing on using the supply they already have. These decisions are made week by week.

One thing Pour is concerned about is variant cases. She says right now there are over 350 samples of COVID variants in the area, mostly affecting those in their 20s. These variants have sometimes "broken through" the vaccines as well, adding another concern.

"At one time there will be a variant where the vaccine is not effective anymore," Pour said. "I think that is what we are so cautious about. Therefore, the smaller we can keep the pool of these variants, the better off we are and the better is the vaccine working for all of us."

Pour said she is concerned events like the College World Series and Olympic Swim Trials could expand that pool.

“That’s what we have seen when we saw the first Brizilian variant. There were two individuals who came in and traveled in from Florida," Pour said. "And I’m saying, 'Please, come and visit Omaha, but don’t bring a guest with you.'"

Stothert also gave an update about relief dollars that will be headed Omaha's way. She said the city is calculated to receive $118 million through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). When that money will be coming and under what guidelines is still unclear.

Stothert said she will use the same approach as she did with the CARES Act, getting input through the COVID advisory to figure out where in the community that money should go.

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