Omaha mask mandate: Mayor concerned about strain on police

Stothert says she was disappointed to not have more input in the decision
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:55 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - When Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse announced she planned to issue a mask mandate for the City of Omaha, she told the Douglas County Board of Health that it was an easy decision to make.

“And I know it’s going to create some waves,” she said.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert thought Dr. Huse should have worked with the mayor’s office and the Omaha City Council before issuing a mask mandate for the City of Omaha.

“When she made that announcement, she had not really had a written order yet from the law department signed by her, so I made it very clear that I do not support a mask mandate at this time,” Stothert told 6 News. “I gave all of my reasons why — I have both a text message and an email from Dr. Huse saying she would like to do a mask mandate, but she wouldn’t do it without my support.”

At a news conference earlier this month, Dr. Huse said the mayor was aware of her line of thinking. But Mayor Stothert said she was disappointed the two couldn’t work together on the issue.

Stothert said that in the early days of the pandemic, she worked closely with Dr. Adi Pour, the previous Douglas County Health Director.

“We didn’t always agree, but we talked about it every time,” the mayor told 6 News. “And we stood shoulder-to-shoulder at every press conference, and we were a united front. All the time, we gave over 30 press conferences — that certainly didn’t happen with Dr. Huse.”

Mayor Stothert says enforcing a mask mandate could put extra stress on the city’s police department.

Our police department, right now, because of COVID, we have a lot out; because of early retirement were down around 70, and I don’t want the Omaha Police Department out there arresting or putting people in jail for not wearing a mask.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Huse told county commissioners she issued the mandate to take pressure off front-line health care workers because COVID-19 cases are flooding our hospitals.

“We’ve got to give them breathing room,” she said. “We have got to make sure they can take care of all of you, and this is how we do that.”

The mayor said Friday that we all have to be careful and protect our neighbors, but she just doesn’t appreciate how Dr. Huse went about issuing the mandate.

“I think people, right now, are wary of it. I look around town; I wear one — it’s the law, so I will abide by the law — but I don’t see everybody wearing one,” she said.

A hearing on the mask mandate is scheduled for Monday morning in Douglas County District Court.

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Catch up on the court filings

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