Omaha Metropolis Council hears extra public feedback on the masks mandate

Omaha City Council heard another public comment on Tuesday about the city’s mask mandate.

The city council heard again from residents for and against the city’s face mask ordinance after hearing a report on the latest local COVID-19 case and positivity data from the county health director.

Once again, a proposal from Councilor Ben Gray was on the table to remove the “sunset clause” in the regulation and instead keep the mandate until the population reaches a certain level for COVID-19 positivity rates and positive cases.

Gray suggests that the regulation be maintained without further action from the council until Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour, notes that two COVID-19 data points in the city have been consistently met:

  • The positivity rate is 5% or less for two consecutive weekly reporting periods.
  • The seven-day moving average is 10 or fewer positive cases per 100,000 people for two consecutive weekly reporting periods.

On Tuesday, Pour turned to the council, saying the number of cases diagnosed had “risen sharply” in the past few weeks, partly due to increased testing – but that’s not the only factor. She says other factors are most likely those who don’t wear masks when they don’t have social distancing, while both masks and social distancing are not observed in small groups and gatherings.

According to Pour, the positivity rate in Omaha is currently 17%.

“The more people infected and the more exposure in the community can result in logarithmic increases,” she said. “Are masks effective? Yes.”

Wearing masks reduces the risk of exposure, reducing the burden on hospitals and the number of people who have to be quarantined in isolation, Pour added. The next three months will mean more people staying indoors, where the coronavirus is more likely to infect people and social distancing becomes more difficult.

Pour recommended to keep mask prescription until the end of the year or until certain thresholds are reached.

Dr. Opponent of the mask mandate, Lee Merritt said masks don’t control viruses, they control people. She added that wearing masks is harmful to society and children.

Merritt said she recently returned from Washington DC at a White Coat Summit and reviewed the literature, in which 97% of the particles were passed through cloth masks. She also pointed to data that those who wear masks are also six times more likely to suffer from flu-like illnesses and upper respiratory diseases.

The Council is expected to vote on a possible extension on November 10th. The mask mandate for Omaha was approved through December 29th.

(Photo by Brian Mastre / WOWT)

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