To wear or not to wear: Omaha and Lincoln to lift their mask mandate

May 19, 2021, 11 a.m. ·

University of Nebraska at Kearney graduates wearing masks as they sit at a commencement ceremony.
Students wear masks as they sit during the July commencement ceremony. (Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Kearney)

Putting on a mask when walking out the door has become second nature to most over the past year. But things are about to change. Lincoln and Lancaster County has announced this Friday there will no longer be a mask mandate. Similarly, the Omaha mask mandate that went into effect last August is set to expire next week. However, the controversy over mask-wearing doesn’t seem like it is going anywhere.

Doane University Political Science Professor Tim Hill said it is not a question of whether the mask mandate being lifted will be a political issue. He says, it already is.

“If you go into certain sections of more liberal cities and you’re not wearing a mask you get the evil eye,” Hill said. “Conversely, if you go to certain smaller towns, where it is maybe more conservative, you get looked at funny if you are wearing one.”

Protestors holding signs outside of a Lincoln Public Schools' Board of Education meeting.
A small group of protesters outside the Oct. 13 Lincoln Public Schools Board of Education meeting. (Photo by Becca Costello, NET News)

Although the mask mandate will be lifted, it will still be up to establishments if they choose to require customers to wear masks. Similarly, it will be up to individuals if they continue to wear masks in their personal lives or not. Dr. Patrice McMahon, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said when discussing controversial issues like this, it is important to try to understand where the other side is coming from.

“I think the best way to have difficult conversations is to approach them in a really neutral way,” McMahon said. “Trying as much as possible to understand and asking questions in a way that is not accusatory.”

Having difficult political conversations with those with opposing views is important, Dr. McMahon said. She recommends trying to understand how someone has formed their opinion; asking them to share their thoughts about masks and what they have been reading. After nearly a year of trying to figure out how to make a cloth mask fashionable, the time has come where it will not be mandatory. The decision will now fall on the individual.