Rise in COVID-19 cases means City of Lincoln employees must wear face masks again | local government

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Thanks to an increase in COVID-19 cases that prompted health department officials to change the risk dial to indicate a high risk of spreading the virus, city workers are once again required to wear masks.

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird updated the city’s “Pandemic Workplace Preparedness Policy” on Thursday, again requiring employees to face masks when interacting with co-workers, members of the public or during meetings with more than two people.

It’s the first time since February that city workers have been required to wear masks.

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In December, the mayor lifted a mask mandate from the city, but the requirement remained for city employees. Then in January, as the Omicron variant grew, the city’s mask mandate was reinstated.

That was lifted in February as cases dwindled, and city officials haven’t had to wear masks since the end of that month — the last time the risk dial was in the orange range.

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Last week, after cases rose sharply, hitting a nearly five-month high with a 20% increase from the previous week and the highest weekly total since the week ending Feb. 12, officials local health department have raised the risk dial to the low-orange range.

The increase in cases is likely due to more infectious variants of the omicron strain of the disease. Local health officials say the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are behind the rise in cases in Lancaster County.

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department Director Pat Lopez said the department is not considering instituting a citywide mask mandate or any other directed health measures at this time. , but increasing the risk dial changes the recommended guidelines.

People are now recommended to wear masks indoors when they cannot keep their distance from others and also when they have potential symptoms of COVID-19.

Lopez also encouraged people to get vaccinated if they haven’t been and to get vaccinated if they are eligible. COVID-19 vaccines are now available for everyone 6 months and older.

City employees do not need to wear a mask in private offices or cubicles if the employee is alone.

The city’s policy has been in effect in one form or another since June 3, 2020, when the city first required face coverings for all employees, more than a month before local department officials health not release its first mask mandate.

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Contact the writer at 402-473-7226 or [email protected]

On Twitter @LJSreist

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