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Gov. Ricketts says state would sue over mask mandate; city pushes back

Posted at 5:21 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 19:11:20-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The fight over a mask mandate continues in the metro.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said the state would take legal action if a mask mandate were issued for Omaha.

He said he didn’t put pressure on Douglas Co. Health Director Dr. Adi Pour to back down from a mandate, but let her know the Attorney General’s Office felt that they would be breaking the law.

Dr. Pour said last week she wouldn’t issue a mask mandate because of the the legal threat.

The governor has said he doesn’t want to see a person without a mask being considered a criminal.

“You’re now making it a crime that somebody is not wearing a mask and that heavy handed government is not the best approach. I believe [in] getting people to adopt using masks as part of their everyday life,” Ricketts explained.

Omaha City Attorney Paul Kratz says the state argued all health departments need approval from the state, but Kratz says there’s an exception for metropolitan cities so Omaha can do it. He says he absolutely stands by his decision and Dr. Pour has issued health directives in the past.

Mayor Stothert doesn’t want to end up in a court battle.

“It just baffles me right now when you hear these experts talk, and we have been saying this from the beginning, why there is still even any debate on mask wearing. I’ve said from the beginning I hope everybody just does it and they should be doing it,” Stothert explained.

Two mask measures will be on the August 11 Omaha City Council agenda. One would be an emergency ordinance which would go into affect immediately if six council members vote yes. If the emergency mask ordinance isn’t approved a regular mask mandate could be approved on August 25 if it gets four votes.