Omaha City Council Extends Indoor Mask Mandate
By Jack Williams , Managing Editor and Reporter Nebraska Public Media News
Oct. 7, 2020, 1:01 p.m. ·
The Omaha City Council has extended its indoor public mask mandate to at least November 24th after hearing concerns from local health officials about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. On a 5-2 vote Tuesday, council members decided to continue the mandate, which was set to expire October 20th. Councilman Pete Festersen voted for the extension and says masks are helping businesses stay open.
“I don’t think it’s the mask ordinance hurting our businesses, I think COVID has hurt our economy and hurt our businesses,” Festersen said. “In fact, the reason why the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce this week endorsed this 30-day extension is because on behalf of its 3,000 members, it thinks it is helping to keep businesses open.”
Council member Aimee Melton voted against the extension, even though she requires masks in her personal business. She says she just doesn’t think the government should require them and is afraid the mandate will be extended indefinitely.
“What I disagree with is having a mask mandate that’s going to go into next year. I just think that’s a little extreme from the point of government, of having an actual law mandating it for people,” Melton said. “In fact, I actually think people might be more willing to wear the masks if we weren’t making it into some freedom issue.”
Douglas County has seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and local hospital capacity has reached 90% capacity on some days. Lincoln’s mask mandate is also still in place until at least the end of October.