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Omaha mask ordinance expires, but not for Metro Transit

WOWT 6 News Live at 10
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 3:07 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Starting Tuesday, the City of Omaha will no longer have a mask ordinance in effect, city officials confirmed Monday. It technically expires one second after midnight Monday, they said.

This means residents will no longer be required to wear face coverings when inside buildings or businesses, though public transportation is not a part of that equation. On Jan. 31, the TSA issued its own mask requirement to prevent the spread of COVID-19, valid on buses, trains, and airplanes.

That federal mandate doesn’t expire until Sept. 13.

Many Metro transit riders expressed relief about that, saying it’s still too soon for the city to get rid of the ordinance and adding that they at least want the extra layer of protection when traveling.

Metro Transit’s CEO Lauren Cencic said rider can expect the same rigorous cleaning efforts that were seen at the height of pandemic.

“We’re using an electrostatic fogger on all of our buses that disinfects them. We’re using commercial grade disinfectant on all of the high touch surfaces like rails and back of seats,” Cencic said.

The company is also taking the seat inserts out of every bus and treating them with an antimicrobial chemicals, as well as swapping out their busiest buses midday, to be cleaned.

Cencic said Metro will remain committed to protecting the safety of everyone who uses their services.

For other parts of the city, however, the mask mandate will be a decision private businesses can decide to continue or do away with. They’re still able to determine whether patrons will be required to wear masks and reserve the right to turn away customers if they do not adhere to their guidelines.

Earlier in the month, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert also stated an emergency mask mandate could be reimplemented if cases in the Douglas County area begin to spike again. Stothert said that decision would be at the discretion of City Council.

The City Council put the mask ordinance in place in August and renewed it a handful of times. If the council chooses to reinstate the ordinance, it would require three readings — including a public hearing — to do so.

In the nine months the ordinance has been effect, Omaha Police said they have issued five citations. OPD issued its first facemask citation in November to a laundromat employee, but the citation was dropped in January.

At midnight tonight, the State of Nebraska's remaining Covid-19 Directed Health Measures will end. At the same time,...

Posted by Jean Stothert on Monday, May 24, 2021

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