DOUGLAS COUNTY (KSNT)- – An emergency public health order issued by the Douglas County Public Health Department will require face coverings for those ages two and older inside public spaces will go into effect Friday, Jan. 7, to help protect the community as COVID-19 cases have rapidly increased during the past week.
“We recognize this pandemic has taken a deep toll and the community is weary; unfortunately, the virus rages on,” Dr. Thomas Marcellino, local health officer, said. “Now is the time we must act to protect our community from a potential crisis.”
LMH Health President and CEO Russ Johnson said they expect inpatient numbers to increase – at least to levels the county hasn’t seen since the beginning of COVID response – all at a time when resources and staff are taxed.
“Our current emergency room wait times are longer due to patient volume,” he said. “At the same time, the large number of patients hospitalized for COVID and other serious issues are significant, and we are routinely required to hold patients in our emergency department until a staffed bed is available.”
LMH Health said the staffing challenges could affect the hospital’s ability to respond in the coming weeks if supplies and beds available are limited.
“With this in mind, our physicians and hospital leadership support an indoor mask mandate,” Johnson said. “Masking will help slow the spread of COVID, influenza, and other respiratory viruses.”
An individual mask order:
Any person in Douglas County should wear a mask or face covering when: inside or in line to enter any indoor public space, obtaining healthcare services, waiting for or riding on public transportation, or while outdoors and unable to maintain a 6-foot distance between individuals who do not reside together.
A business mask order:
All businesses or organizations in Douglas County must require employees, customers, visitors, members, or members of the public to wear a mask or face covering when: working in any public space, working where food is prepared or packaged, or in any enclosed area where people are present and unable to maintain a 6-foot distance.
There are exemptions to the order. These include:
Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.
Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Persons engaged in religious services, ceremonies, or activities.
Persons who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or
beverages while they are actively eating or drinking.
Persons engaged in a court-related proceeding.
The order will remain in effect until Wednesday, Jan. 12, unless it is otherwise rescinded or modified by the Douglas County Commission. Commissioners will discuss extending the public health order during their business meeting at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. The meeting also will be available by Zoom.