Douglas County health officials are encouraging people planning to attend Native Omaha Days to take precautions, including getting vaccinated and wearing masks if they’re not, to protect against COVID-19.
This year’s celebration of family, friends and community on North 24th Street will run for a full week from July 26 through Aug. 2.
Chris Rodgers, president of the Douglas County Board of Health, said Wednesday that he’s concerned about the spread of the virus with the festival coming as coronavirus cases are rising in Nebraska, and the Unites States as a whole, and the highly contagious delta variant has become dominant.
In addition, the local African American community has the lowest vaccination rate among racial and ethnic groups in Douglas County. As of Tuesday, 53.9% of Asian residents were fully vaccinated, 51.6% of Whites, 44.5% of Native Americans, 39.9% of Hispanics and 32.2% of Blacks.
“It’s a recipe for something potentially to happen,” Rodgers said.
Overall, 52.5% of Douglas County residents are fully vaccinated. The county on Wednesday also reached President Joe Biden’s July 4 goal of having 70% of residents 18 and older with at least one shot of vaccine.
Rodgers encouraged attendees to wear masks, even if they are fully vaccinated, given that 7 in 10 of those they’ll be around won’t be vaccinated. While it’s possible for people who are fully vaccinated to get COVID-19, such cases rarely result in hospitalization or death.
While outdoor activities such as the celebration’s parade are safer than indoor gatherings, the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air.
Lindsay Huse, director of the Douglas County Health Department, said some reports indicate the delta variant can be transmitted even in brief interactions.
Said Rodgers, “Take precautions, and don’t underestimate the fact that the pandemic isn’t over.”
Dr. Drea Jones, a health board member and Nebraska Medicine physician, said she is seeing patients, both in the hospital and in clinic, with the delta variant.
“It’s just really important to spread the word that (the vaccine) is safe and effective,” she said.