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Mask Mandate extended to Oct. 28

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 2:06 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and health officials announced on Tuesday that the current Directed Health Measure will be extended to Oct. 28. According to Health Director Pat Lopez, this is in order to prevent the virus from getting worse by loosening restrictions too soon.

Currently, there are around 90 cases per day. This is a 35% decrease from Aug. 30. Around 112 individuals were hospitalized due to COVID on Tuesday, half of whom were local. As of September, there have been 17 COVID related deaths.

The COVID-19 Risk Dial has lowered to low-orange (high level).

With COVID-19 cases, positivity rate, hospitalizations, and deaths still at high levels, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today announced that the local Directed Health Measure (DHM) that was set to expire September 30 has been extended through Thursday, October 28. There are no changes to the DHM that took effect August 26. The DHM continues to require that all individuals ages two and older – regardless of vaccination status – wear a mask indoors. The DHM requires business owners to ensure their patrons ages two and older wear masks any time they cannot maintain six feet of separation with non-household members.

The DHM includes exceptions. For more information on the DHM, visit covid19.lincoln.ne.gov or call 402-441-6280. For general information on COVID-19, visit the website or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.

“The data tells us that our situation is still critical, and our community is not yet in a position where we can safely end the indoor mask requirement,” said Health Director Pat Lopez. “We must exercise caution and not remove measures too soon only to have numbers quickly reverse and start heading in the wrong direction once again. I know this is not the news we were hoping for but it’s important to understand that extending the mask requirement is a necessary step to help us get through this surge and back to where we want to be.”

LLCHD also announced that the COVID-19 Risk Dial will move from mid-orange to low-orange.

Orange indicates that the risk of the virus spreading and the impact on our community is high. On the color-coded dial, red represents the highest risk of COVID-19 spread, and green represents the lowest risk.

The position of the Risk Dial is based on multiple local indicators and information from the previous three weeks.

Seventeen local residents have died from COVID-19 so far in September. Twelve were unvaccinated.

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized locally had leveled off with an average of 100 daily patients. Today, however, 112 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized locally, with 20 on ventilators.

The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases decreased from a high of 140 cases on August 30 to 90 cases toward the end of last week. A COVID-19 outbreak at Lancaster County Corrections has resulted in 73 cases. LLCHD has been working closely with corrections officials to implement measures to contain the outbreak.

The community positivity rate has remained steady at about 10%.

Lancaster County continues to have the highest vaccination rate in the state, with 73.7% of residents ages 16 and over fully vaccinated. But Lopez reminded residents that the County’s total population is over 319,000, and the vaccination rate for all residents is 59%. About 21% of the total population, about 67,000 people, are eligible for vaccination, but have not yet received a dose.

Lopez said everyone should continue to monitor their health and to be on the alert for fever, cough, shortness of breath and other symptoms of COVID-19. Even if you are vaccinated, you should separate yourself from others and get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

For general information on COVID-19, visit covid19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.

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