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LAWSUIT: Omaha's mask mandate challenged in court

Posted at 10:05 AM, Jan 13, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska health officials filed suit late Wednesday seeking an injunction to stop Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse from enforcing the COVID-19 mask mandate she authorized.

State officials say the mandate violates state law, the state constitution and exceeds the authority granted the health director in either of her roles, for the county or the City of Omaha.

Huse said she had to enact the mandate because she said she couldn’t watch local hospitals be overrun by the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

She cited her ability to do so for only the city under Omaha municipal code. The state lawsuit says city ordinance is superseded by state law.

The state cites a law they say gives the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services final say on health and safety decisions regarding infectious diseases like this.

DHHS is the plaintiff in the lawsuit, which mentions that Huse had tried previously to seek DHHS approval for a different, broader mask mandate for all of Douglas County in August. DHHS denied her request.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts publicly opposed mask mandates like Huse’s, and Attorney General Doug Peterson followed through on the governor’s threat to sue.

"I can't stand by and not do everything that we can," Huse said just before issuing the mandate

Following the meeting, City Council President Pete Festersen sent a brief news release expressing that the majority of the council supports the mask mandate and asserted the need to keep schools, hospitals and first responders operating.

"We believe Dr. Huse clearly has this authority and we will continue to support the resources needed to increase testing and vaccination rates in our community," Festersen said in the release.