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The next step for implementing a mask mandate in Omaha

Differing opinions among state, county and city officials
Posted at 6:18 PM, Aug 25, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Yesterday, the State of Nebraska rejected a call from Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse for a temporary mask mandate in Douglas County. So what happens next?

Douglas County has exhausted all means when it comes to implementing a face mask mandate and it has County Commissioner Chris Rodgers worried about the direction the pandemic is taking.

"We saw this last year, you don't need to get kicked in the butt twice to understand where things are going," Rodgers said. "We saw this last year, we see where it's going, right now we're trying to get ahead of this, so the virus does not have the chance to mutate."

But the next course of action is out of their hands. Cities and individual organizations will have to set their own mask mandates.

"So instead of us being able to have a complete coverage of the county with the mandate to bring the numbers down, it could be spotty based on which jurisdictions choose to implement the mandate," Rodgers said.

Omaha City council member Aimee Melton gave an update on where Council stands.

"Any single council member can do a request to law to ask for a mask mandate to be put on our agenda to vote on, no council member has done that at this time," Melton said.

Melton wants schools and businesses to have a choice of whether or not to impose a mask mandate.

"I don't believe the government should be having mask mandates that apply to everyone all over the board," Melton said.

In a statement to 3 News Now, Council President Pete Festersen said, "When public health experts make the determination that action is needed, it should be taken seriously. I will continue discussing it with council members and the Mayor but there's no consensus at the moment and it would take at least five weeks unless the public health director is able to take the action herself."

Still, Rodgers hopes for consistency.

"We say we believe government is best exercised at the local level, the local level wants to do this and we just ask you respect that but also be consistent in the fact of where the mark is set, the goal post keeps moving," Rodgers said.

Phil Rooney with Douglas County Health Department told 3 News Now, "We are disappointed and will review our options."