Omaha City Council passes the Mask Mandate, the rule takes effect immediately

Omaha City Council voted Tuesday for an emergency ordinance requiring face coverings in most public places indoors.

The measure was passed unanimously after more than three hours of public comment. It takes effect immediately.

The ordinance had enough votes to pass with four of the seven members but would have gone through two more hearings over the next month.

Councilor Aimee Melton says she opposed the mandate, but since its final approval was inevitable, she decided to amend the ordinance and vote in favor:

“There are a lot of you who are not happy right now,” Melton said. “But would you rather have my no and a mask mandate that you have to wear all the time? Or would you rather have these amendments? Because that’s the position I am in.”

Melton’s amendments state that masks are not required if six feet can be maintained and reduce the fine for violating the regulation from $ 100 to $ 25.

The ordinance does not apply if you are sitting in a restaurant or bar or using government services.

It includes an exception for those with a medical or mental illness that makes wearing a mask inappropriate.

Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Department of Health, contemplated a mask mandate but withdrew after the Attorney General asked her legal authority to do so.

Some councilors criticized Pour for failing to give the mandate, saying it shouldn’t be the city council’s role to take these steps.

“If, in my opinion, it had been so important at the time, it should have been set up,” said Councilor Brikner Harding. “Regardless of the threat of legal action, it should have been introduced.”

Pour spoke out in favor of the ordinance at the city council meeting, along with infectious disease experts from several medical institutions.

Public comment on the issue was divided, with dozens of residents speaking out both for and against the regulation.

Many opponents said that everyone should have the right to choose whether to wear a mask or not and that a mask mandate takes away their freedom.

Some said they were harassed in public for not wearing face covering.

“It’s traumatic to keep saying, ‘I have a disease, I have a disease’ and getting sass and back talk from people in the stores and scoffers and whatever,” said Stephanie Dorothy.

Some opponents expressed frustration at not being allowed to speak because they had not provided their addresses on the public comment form, as required by the Council’s rules. A woman was led out of the chamber by the security service.

Proponents emphasized the increase in COVID-19 cases in Douglas County in recent weeks; According to Adi Pour, COVID-19 hospital stays have increased 42% in the past four weeks.

Pour also said the spread of COVID-19 in the community is uncontrolled, although the number of cases is not as high as it was a few months ago.

“You remember April, May – we had really high numbers,” Pour said. “But they were related to large clusters in food processing plants. It’s easier to control because we know it’s a cluster. What we’re seeing today are a lot of small clusters: 2-3 people. So it’s a lot harder to get around to actually control this. “

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department officials say the mask mandate there appears to be effective.

The mandate went into effect on July 20th and both the weekly case numbers and the daily averages have decreased.

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