Douglas County's Health Director Requests New Mask Mandate, Waiting for Answer from State

Aug. 24, 2021, noon ·

Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse wearing a mask with chairs behind her.
Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse also acts as Omaha's city health director. (Photo from live stream)

Update: Late Tuesday, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human services rejected Douglas County's request for a mask mandate. In a letter to Health Director Lindsay Huse, Nebraska's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone denied her request, saying "imposing restrictions on every individual at a district level is not appropriate." The letter goes on to say that Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has not supported mask mandates and encourages Nebraskans to practice personal responsibility.

Douglas County’s health director has requested the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services grant a temporary directed health measure that would require most residents to wear masks indoors. Health Director Lindsay Huse explained the request at Tuesday Douglas County Commissioners meeting.

“This measure would require masking for all persons over age five in indoor public settings with some exclusions until two benchmarks are met,” Huse said. “First, our community transmission drops below the substantial category, which is in line with current federal guidance. Second, until eight weeks have passed since a COVID vaccine is approved for children ages 5-11.”

Huse pointed to increased COVID cases in schools as the reason the mask mandate is needed. In May, Douglas County ended a mask mandate that had been in place since last year, but COVID cases have been on the increase because of the delta variant of the virus. There’s no word yet whether the state health department will approve the directed health measure request. Governor Ricketts has voiced his opposition to mask mandates in the past and has resisted implementing a statewide mandate during the pandemic.