The Fremont Board of Health approved a community directed health measure on Friday, requiring residents to wear a face covering when inside a public place.
“This is the first attempt to try and slow the spread in Fremont and Dodge County,” Mayor Scott Getzschman said.
The Fremont measure passed on a 3-1 vote, with Dr. Richard Seitz, a member of the health board, voting in favor. He said health care providers in the city are “at a breaking point.”
“I, myself have lost innumerable patients to this pandemic,” Seitz said. “It seems like every week I’m signing a death certificate or two that’s directly related to COVID-19.”
The Three Rivers Public Health Department, which includes Dodge County, has reported more than 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks. Dodge County reported nearly 600 over the same time span.
The Fremont measure comes on the heels of several Nebraska cities passing local mask mandates, as Gov. Pete Ricketts continues to resist a statewide requirement.
Police Chief Jeff Elliott was the lone health board member to vote against the measure. He expressed concern about having the resources to enforce a mask requirement given the number of cases within his department.
“The moral of the story is, it’s my opinion that you do not have the resources to adequately enforce a mask mandate with your police department as it sits now,” he said.
The measure goes into effect Saturday and lasts through Jan. 31. It requires people 5 and older to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while inside a public place.
Exemptions to Fremont’s measure include:
» People seeking medical, federal, state or county services.
» People who can’t wear face coverings because of medical conditions or disabilities.
» People who are alone in an office, room or vehicle.
» People who are swimming or showering, exercising at a gym or similar facility or playing in a sporting event.
» Employees at a workplace where wearing a face covering would create a safety hazard or employees at a workstation with a plexiglass barrier.
Other exemptions are in place for people eating or drinking in bars and restaurants. Masks can be removed while people are seated to eat or drink.
People officiating religious services or giving a speech can remove their mask as long as a minimum of 6 feet of distance is maintained between other people.
Violating the order would be considered a misdemeanor.
Passing a directed health measure through the board of health allowed for the order to be put in place immediately, Getzschman said.
“Our goal was to get it into place,” Getzschman said.
This report includes material from the Fremont Tribune.