Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department extends mask mandate


Photo by Ava Bartels

Masks went from recommended to required in August due to a large spike in cases that were tied to school starting back up. Now for the third time, the Lincoln-Lancaster health department has extended the mask mandate. This time until December 23, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Photo by Ava Bartels

After approximately a year and a half of mask wearing in Lancaster county, the finish line was drawing close at the end of October. Record low summer COVID cases and hospitalizations had everybody’s hopes of a normal school year skyhigh. But of course, a week into the new quarter, Lancaster county saw a ridiculous spike in COVID transmissions with LPS at the center. Masks were again required, cases progressively went down and stabilized, and everyone was told that with the conclusion of October, the masks would disappear. Nevertheless, October, and November passed by, and the mask mandate stood firm. Everyone is still required to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status.
After the last mask requirement “end date” in November, the Lancaster county Health Director Pat Lopez announced that the conclusion of the mask mandate was now scheduled for December 23, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Due to the initial success and failures the last mask requirement brought forth, the city believes that the extension of the requirement will only help contain the current COVID situation. The seven-day rolling average for new daily cases increased 62% from late October to current day. So, the Health Department extended the requirement to give people a wider window of opportunity to get vaccinated before the mask mandate is no longer in place. Because according to the Health Director, if we want to move forward, “…we need to continue to vaccinate.”

“Locally, the previous mask mandate contributed to a lower case rate and a lower death rate…” Lopez said. “We have reached another point in the pandemic where we have to take immediate action to protect our community and help stop the spread of the delta variant.”

According to the Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department, wearing a proper mask has a stifling impact on the spread of COVID, but vaccination proves to be the most effective way to protect yourself from the virus. Vaccinations aren’t required, but strongly recommended. Nebraska data from mid September to mid October shows that people who are unvaccinated are at a 10.5 times greater risk for being hospitalized, and a 14.5 times greater risk of dying of COVID compared to fully vaccinated individuals. While 63.3% of the population is fully vaccinated, the individuals who are unvaccinated will still have significantly lower chances of getting COVID if they wear a mask. This is the main driving factor that led the health officials to draw out the mask mandate. Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s focus is rightfully on the overall public health, and she believes that by everyone wearing proper masks, and following the local health measures, we’ll be able to have a secure and functioning society once again.

“Our local health measures are in place to help limit the spread of COVID-19, and therefore help clear out the hospitals so that people in our communities can get not just COVID-19 care, but normal medical care when they need it.” Baird said.

Once the 23rd of December rolls around, the mask mandate has a chance to be ended, and an equal chance to be elongated. Some believe the enforcement of mask wearing is responsible for the lower COVID numbers, but there are people that lean the opposite way. For the moment though, it’s everybody’s responsibility to obey the law, mask up, and do all they can to protect everyone else.