OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - The Omaha Public Schools Board of Education approved a resolution at a meeting on Monday that mandates masks be worn by all people on district premises.
The vote comes a couple of weeks after the CDC issued new guidance recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.
School board members say they wanted kids to be able to return to school without masks, but the delta variant and its effect on younger populations is a major concern.
“We have an issue in this country with a variant, and it is real," said board member Tracy Casady. "And until we can get a handle on it, I think this is the best possible solution we can do in our community to try to get our kids back in school and keep them there.”
I can share words and facts to tell you about tonight's school board meeting, but nothing will quite tell you how many parents were feeling like seeing this mom and ICU nurse teary-eyed, hoping the board will require masks as her first grader heads back to school. @3NewsNowOmaha pic.twitter.com/MenPCiMpJh— Jessika Eidson KMTV (@JessikaEidsonTV) August 10, 2021
Exceptions to the Omaha Public Schools mask mandate include things such as outdoor activities or while eating or drinking.
People spoke out for and against the staff-supported mask resolution at Monday's meeting.
Jacinta Weber, who said she was a nurse and whose LinkedIn profile shows she is an RN with CHI Health, said she's tired of feeling she doesn't have a choice.
“I believe it needs to stay a recommendation," Weber said. "I don’t think it should be mandatory. I think any health decision should be up to me to decide for my child."
Another mother and another nurse who worked in the ICU at Nebraska Medicine, Michelle Cavanaugh, said the more transmissible delta variant is "scary" and does not spare children. She said without masks being required, she feels like she'd be sending her daughter to school to get COVID.
“Maybe she will get cold-like symptoms; maybe she will end up on life support. It's a gamble I'm not willing to risk and neither should you," Cavanaugh said.
A mother and ICU nurse says the Delta variant is scary and not sparing children.— Jessika Eidson KMTV (@JessikaEidsonTV) August 10, 2021
She goes on to say without masks she feels like she’s sending her daughter to school to get COVID. “Maybe she will get cold like symptom, maybe she will end up on life support.” pic.twitter.com/kHCLUVi1cx
The school district will provide masks to students and employees.
The passage comes on the same day that the Douglas County Health Department said the coronavirus transmission risk in the county is “high.”
The Douglas County Health Department reported 248 cases on Monday (since the last report on Friday), and nearly 100 residents are hospitalized with COVID.
“We are returning to case levels we haven’t seen in months,” Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse said.
A man says he thinks it’s the rights of parents to make decisions about the health and well-being of students and they should be able to make a choice.— Jessika Eidson KMTV (@JessikaEidsonTV) August 9, 2021
The resolution passed with only one no vote, board member Spencer Head.
OPS students begin to return to school next week.