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COVID-19 cases in Omaha rise among younger populations

Published: Jul. 11, 2020 at 4:11 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Douglas County’s youngest demographic is seeing a rise in coronavirus cases while positive rates among older age brackets are going down.

Some experts blame bars and restaurants where younger people are often seen violating health safety measures.

The decision to open or close has been a cornerstone of the coronavirus pandemic. In Blackstone, Blackstone Social reopened Friday night after a positive case was traced there last month.

A manager expects backlash but said profit margins are tight.

“It’s a fine line between adhering to social pressures on you but at the same time being open,” said Chance Lydick, operations manager at Blackstone Social.

Lydick has heard the criticism.

A person tested positive for COVID-19 was traced back to the bar during the last weekend of June.

The bar closed to clean the inside and test employees. Two weeks later, all 25 employees tested negative -- and it’s back to business in an effort to stay afloat.

“At the end of the day, it was about keeping our staff safe and also being completely transparent and honest with our customers,” he said.

When the bar is open, it’s easy to see a dense group of younger patrons at the garage opening similar to other bars across the country.

According to the Douglas County Health Department, those aged 34 and under represent 56 percent according to recent data. It’s the only bracket trending upwards while other age groups are trending downwards.

Lydick said anyone critical of what they see is only too quick to judge

“When you drive by, you might think it’s packed but people don’t see an empty patio, they don’t see empty tables in the back, they just see 25 to 30 people in the very front because of the way the bar is set up,” he said.

On Friday night, people inside were getting their weekend started.

“This is just something that’s just not going to go away,” said Meagan Sondergaard. “I wash my hands and everything to keep myself clean.”

“I work in the medical field so I’m always making sure that I’m healthy and everything is clean and disinfected,” said Brayden Bondasak. “If it’s going up, maybe we should go back in, but definitely not.”

As customers return to the area bringing Blackstone back to life, businesses here are trying to stay alive.

“There’s no right choice right now. You can close but then you’re jeopardizing your future and your staff’s future. You can open, then you’re going to have pushback from some of the population,” Lydick said. “At this point, we don’t have an option other than being open.”

As for capacity, the manager at Blackstone Social said their cut-off is 49 people. A line could form outside as staff turn customers away.

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