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Douglas County Health Director recommends masks in public: ‘This is health and science’

Omaha Public Schools has called a special meeting Monday to discuss its mask policy.
Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse
Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse
Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 3:47 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse said in a statement Friday encouraging mask use as the Douglas County Health Department works to contain the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant in the Omaha area.

Noting that recommendations can change as more is learned about the virus and how it behaves, Dr. Huse is recommending that “all people wear masks in public, get vaccinated, practice good handwashing, stay home when sick, and get tested.”

Dr. Huse said the health department is working with school districts on how to “best implement recommendations in their districts, based on their own deep knowledge of the people they serve.” She said that may include mask policies or use of masks once transmission occurs, noting that “when cases arise, we will handle them on a case-by-case basis.”

The statement was issued at nearly the same time Omaha Public Schools announced it would hold a special meeting to discuss its mask policy.

“The one agenda item will be a resolution to require face coverings inside all Omaha Public Schools and district offices. The requirement would be for all staff and students, from pre-Kindergarten to twelfth-grade,” the OPS release states.

The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at its TAC building, located at 3215 Cuming St.

The school district said it sent the following letter to its families on Friday afternoon:

Dear Omaha Public Schools Staff and Families,

In July, we shared our health and safety protocols for the 2021-22 school year. We said our focus is on responsible in-person learning for our students. We added that as conditions change, we may need to update those procedures.

On Monday, August 9, our Board of Education will host a special meeting. Members will consider requiring face coverings inside all schools and district offices. If approved, it would be similar to our face covering requirements during the 2020-21 school year. This reflects commitment to health and safety, and our goal to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our elementary, middle and high schools.

Conditions continue to change quickly. In the weeks since we released our 2021-22 protocols, the Omaha metro area has seen a growing number of COVID-19 cases. We can all do our part to protect one another:

• talk with your doctor and get a vaccine against COVID-19 if you are eligible (here is a list of vaccine clinics leading up to the start of school)

• take health and safety precautions in your daily routines outside of school

Schools are part of our larger community. We cannot do this alone. We can do this together.

Letter sent to Omaha Public Schools families

Millard Public Schools is also slated to discuss masking protocols for students in Pre-Kindergarten through sixth grade — any students younger than age 12 — at its 6 p.m. meeting Monday.

Bellevue Public Schools is also planning to discuss its COVID-19 plan for the upcoming school year at 6:30 p.m. Monday evening.

Earlier this week, Westside Community Schools decided to require masks indoors for students who are too young to be vaccinated against the virus.

Elkhorn and Bennington school districts have said previously that they plan to begin the school year without requiring students.

A Ralston Public Schools plan updated Thursday says masks will be required indoors for elementary schools, with staff having the option to mask, regardless of vaccination status, but staff will have the option to mask or not when they’re not around students. All students of any grade level, however, will have to wear masks while riding on school district transportation, and middle and high school teachers will have to track which students are wearing masks in case of a reported exposure down the road.

Last week, the CDC put out updated guidance on masks, calling on anyone entering a K-12 school this fall to mask up. The American Academy of Pediatrics said the same thing.

Read Dr. Huse’s full statement

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