To respond to a local spike in new cases of COVID-19, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today issued a new local Directed Health Measure (DHM) that will require all individuals age five and older to wear a face covering when they are in an indoor space that is open to the public unless six feet of separation from others at all times can be achieved. The DHM also requires business owners to ensure their patrons age five and older wear face coverings any time they cannot maintain six feet of separation with non-household members.
The DHM goes into effect Monday July 20 and continues until August 31 when it will be reevaluated. No other changes to the DHM issued on June 22 are being implemented at this time.
The DHM includes exceptions. Masks are not required for the following:
Gaylor Baird said 274 new cases have been reported locally since July 12, and positivity rates are also increasing. Although the local hospital capacity is good, the number of hospitalizations has increased from nine on July 2 to 22 today.
"Our public health emergency is not over, and our numbers are moving in the wrong direction," Mayor Gaylor Baird said. "Everyone needs to understand that this reversal of progress threatens the opening of school. It threatens the businesses that have reopened. And it threatens the health of every person in our community. The time to act is now."
Mayor Gaylor Baird said the LLCHD team considered further restrictions on occupancy limits at restaurants and bars, but she said most businesses are working well with health officials.
Among those expressing support for the mask requirement at today's announcement were representatives of the Lancaster County Medical Society, Lincoln and Norris Public Schools, local cultural centers, and the business community.
"The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce supports this common-sense measure. It's how we keep businesses open and employees and customers safe," said Wendy Birdsall, President of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development. "Let's make Lincoln a model for the rest of the nation in how we exercise both personal and social responsibility."
"I wholeheartedly support this measure, as this is one of the best tools we have for promoting public health, health equity, and economic recovery,"" said Jasmine Kingsley, Senior Vice President of Legal and People at Hudl. "I hope this is something behind which our local business community will rally."
"One of the primary tools we have to help defeat this virus is the use of face coverings," said Bill Cintani, President and CEO of Mapes Industries. "We required face coverings in all of our operations where they can be safely used. The science says that this will help protect the user and limit transmission to others. It is not a 'cure,' but it is the least we can do to help keep our community safe and businesses open."
Law enforcement will not issue tickets to individuals for non-compliance. Mayor Gaylor Baird said the City will focus on education rather than enforcement. Those who observe suspected violations should not call the Police or Sheriff's 911 or non-emergency numbers. These situations should be reported to UPLNK either through the phone app or online at UPLNK.lincoln.ne.gov. Businesses with questions on the DHM may call 402-441-6280.
More information on the DHM and COVID-19 in the community is available at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov.