Omaha City Council to revisit facemask ordinance, reconsider ‘sunset clause’

City Council members will discuss extending the ordinance and consider Councilman Ben Gray’s motion during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 5:58 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - City Council members are preparing to debate on Tuesday a proposal to eliminate the “sunset provision” currently in place on the city’s facemask ordinance.

“I think council members are getting tired of meeting every two weeks to redo this thing," Councilman Ben Gray told 6 News.

Instead of discussing whether to extend the mask ordinance every few weeks, Gray says the council should let the data do the talking.

He introduced a motion that says Omaha’s mask ordinance should stay in place until the positivity rate and case numbers reach a certain level.

“Once we’ve reached this threshold, then we can talk about removing the mandate,” he added.

His proposal states that, based on data from health experts, the seven-day rolling average needs to equal 10 or fewer cases per 100 thousand people.

The positivity rate needs to be at or below five percent.

Phil Rooney, a spokesperson for the Douglas County Health Department, explained what the positivity rate refers to.

“The percentage of people that were tested that turned out to have this disease," he said.

According to the County Health Department, that rate is increasing.

“What we are seeing is reflective of the rest of the country. The positivity rate on testing for the past week was about 16 percent. A little bit over 16 percent," Rooney added.

Councilman Gray said he believes increased testing is only part of why we’re seeing an upward trend.

“We’ve got too many people that are not understanding the mask mandate. And they’re still meeting at too many places you know gathering at too many places where there’s not people wearing masks, they’re not social distancing," he said.

The councilman also said there should be enforcement of the ordinance.

“But I think what happens first, and what police have been successful at is going to establishments and teaching first. And helping them understand what the rules are first," Gray added.

As colder weather is expected the Health Department said all safety guidelines should continue to be followed.

“We’re really asking you take responsibility for this and, take the responsibility for your own health and that of others and help us get through this," Rooney added.

City Council members will discuss extending the ordinance, and councilmember Gray’s motion Tuesday afternoon. They will vote on the matter Nov. 10.

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