Omaha City Council to vote on emergency mask mandate Tuesday

It needs approval from six of the seven members to take effect immediately
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 5:00 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The City Council is poised to push forward with an emergency mask mandate. But will it have the votes?

The proposed emergency ordinance for a mask mandate was requested by Council Members Chris Jerram, Pete Festersen, and Ben Gray.

The council will vote on it on Tuesday.

It needs approval from six of the seven council members to go into effect immediately.

Last week, Douglas County’s Health Director backed off a mask mandate under the threat of a lawsuit from the governor.

When asked if the proposers have the votes, Pete Festersen said, "We were surprised the county did not act. The City Council is moving forward. We think it's a simple and practical thing we can all be doing to get our kids back to school safely and continue our economic recovery. I think the majority of city council support it -- and we hope we have enough votes for the emergency clause on Tuesday and we think the timing is really important."

The concern even comes from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx is warning Omaha along with 8 other cities (Baltimore, Atlanta, Kansas City, Portland, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, DC) to get its act together with positivity rates at more than ten percent.

Omaha Council Member Brinker Harding said, “My preference would be not to have the [mask] ordinance -- that it would be voluntary. I’m still open to discussions.”

Harding adds he sees that most people are wearing masks.

Meanwhile, the emails in support and against a mask ordinance have been pouring into City Hall.

Tim Kaufman writes: "I don't want to die because some people are so thoughtless, uncaring or making a political statement by not wearing masks..."

John Hruska writes: “Teachers are overwhelmed by the new challenges. This would make a huge difference to everyone in education.”

Cameron writes: “Don’t do it. Americans are sick of their freedom being infringed by the choking hands of government.”

Colleen Siracuse writes: “If a mask mandate is passed, I will look into legal ways to fight the city.”

So, what happens if the emergency ordinance fails? Then the regular ordinance would see its first reading Tuesday and it has the support of four council members, but wouldn’t go into effect for 36-days. Some worry that would be too little, too late.

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