Citing Stress on Hospitals, Lincoln Reinstates Mask Mandate Amid Omicron Surge

Jan. 14, 2022, 1 p.m. ·

Pat Lopez Makes at a podium with part of a television screen behind her and an interpreter for the deaf signing in a small inset box in the corner of the Zoom screen.
Health director Pat Lopez says people should stay home, except for going to school, work, the grocery store or getting medical care. (Photo via Zoom press conference)

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The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department is bringing back the citywide mask mandate less than a month after dropping it.

Masks will be required indoors in Lincoln starting Friday at midnight. Citing a rise in cases and stress on the local healthcare system, Health Director Pat Lopez announced the city would reinstate the directed health measure. Health department leaders hope this prevents even more hospitalizations as medical centers fill up.

"Lincoln, our schools and hospitals are in crisis, and they need us to act now," Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said Friday. "I’m asking anyone in a position of influence in this city to elevate these urgent messages of vigilance for the next several weeks in response to the crises our schools and healthcare system are experiencing in this moment.”

Lopez said as of Wednesday just 8% of the city’s ICUs were available – and that cases continue to set record highs. The city's risk dial remains in the red, or severe, category.

This news comes as the state has just filed suit in Douglas County to block Omaha’s mask mandate. Asked if the state had put pressure on Lincoln’s decision, Lopez said no and she hadn't spoke with the state.

“That ability to respond from a local level, to our local needs, is really critical because we best know what our local situation is," Lopez said.

Lopez says people should stay home, except for going to school, work, the grocery store or getting medical care. The mask mandate will be in effect through Feb. 11.