The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today notified two local bars and the Railyard commons area that they were not allowed to operate for 24 hours because their violations of the latest Directed Health Measure (DHM) "presented a risk to public health and contribute to the community spread of COVID-19." LLCHD has ordered Iguanas Pub, 1426 "O" Street; Longwells, 350 Canopy Street; and the Railyard to be closed from 5 p.m. today to 5 p.m. Sunday July 26.
A mask mandate is included in the DHM that went into effect Monday, July 20 and is in effect through August 31. It 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 also requires businesses to limit parties of eight or less; to maintain at least six feet of distance between tables of patrons; and to limit capacity. The Lincoln Municipal Code allows the Health Director to order the closure of any business for the purpose of controlling communicable diseases.
Information on the DHM and its requirements was available to the bars on the City website and was reported through local media. LLCHD also hand delivered letters to local establishments to remind them of the restrictions. LLCHD has received a number of reports alleging that certain bars were in violation. LLCHD also conducted inspections of bars and restaurants to ensure compliance with the DHM. Inspections conducted late Friday night and early Saturday morning identified significant violations at the two bars and the Railyard.
LLCHD Interim Health Director Pat Lopez said the bars were closed only after attempts to educate and work with the establishments failed.
"The mask mandate and the other restrictions were issued to slow the spread of the virus and to help prevent further restrictions like the closing of bars," Lopez said. "We need these businesses to work with us to prevent the further spread of the virus and the need to issue more limitations on our business community."
In moving the COVID-19 Risk Dial from low-orange to mid-orange Friday, Lopez said the risk of virus transmission remains high, and much of the recent increase in cases is among younger adults. Since the beginning of July, 77 percent of new cases have been under age 40. While individuals age 20 to 29 make up only about 18.5 percent of our population, 53 percent of these new cases reported since July have been in that age group. She said several downtown bars continue to be identified as possible places of exposure.
LLCHD said those who observe someone not wearing a mask in public should stay six feet away from the individual and should not call law enforcement emergency or non-emergency numbers. The public can make complaints regarding compliance through the UPLNK phone app or the City website, UPLNK.lincoln.ne.gov. Businesses with specific questions about the face covering requirement can call the Health Department at 402-441-6280. More information on the mask mandate and the exceptions is available at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov.
LLCHD said that 40 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Lancaster County today, bringing the community total to 2,758. The number of deaths in the community remains at 14.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, repeated shaking with chills, repeated muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.
If you have symptoms, please get tested. Begin the process with a free online risk assessment available at BryanHealth.com and CHIHealth.com. Testing is by appointment only. Bryan Health offers drive-through testing at LifePointe, 7501 S. 27th Street. CHI Health St. Elizabeth offers drive-through testing at North Star High School, 5801 N. 33rd Street.
Test Nebraska will be in Lincoln at North Star High School, 5801 N. 33rd St. from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Testing is now open to all Lancaster County residents. Testing is by appointment only. Begin the process with a free online risk assessment at TestNebraska.com.
At the "Orange" level on the COVID19 Risk Dial, residents are advised to follow these recommendations to protect themselves and others:
For more information, including a dashboard that summarizes Lancaster County COVID-19 data, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.