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Omaha City Council extends mask mandate until May; age for mask mandate will not be raised

Posted at 3:50 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 23:13:16-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha's mask mandate will be in effect through at least May 25, with the City Council unanimously voting to pass an extension Tuesday. But there was discussion about changing who the mandate applies to.

Councilmembers Amiee Melton and Brinker Harding proposed an amendmentthat would change the age requirements from 5 to 12 years old. This amendment was ultimately reject by the council, with only Melton and Harding in favor.

“We wanted to make sure that those who were heard about wanting the mask mandate and those who are concerned about some of the mental or physical effects that it's having on some of our younger youth," said Harding.

Opponents point to variants of COVID-19 that are still being studied and say changing things could cause confusion.

“I think it’s important at this time to remain consistent with what is working and that people are used to and not to cause additional confusion," said Councilmember Pete Festersen.

Councilmember Vinny Palermo, who also signed onto the amendment, echoed Melton and Harding’s sentiments of wanting to talk about when the mandate should end. He says these decisions should have never even made it to the council’s level.

“For those who won’t come out and say it, I will: we have been failed with those who should have taken responsibility on the mask mandate and those who should be getting this vaccine out," Palermo said without naming anyone in particular.

When it came time to vote, Palermo was one of five to vote against the amendment.

While that change failed, many on the council say they want to provide a better answer to the question “when will this mandate end?”

“Maybe that is something we can agree on," Melton said. "'Tell us when its going to end.' And we should all agree to striving to have that goal.”