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Offutt Air Force Base now requiring all workers to wear masks indoors

Offutt Air Force Base now requiring all workers to wear masks indoors

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The StratCom Gate at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue.

While the state's cases were up 100% over the past two weeks, that percentage ranks only 41st nationally, as cases are surging across the country.

All military and civilian employees and visitors to Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue are required to wear face masks indoors after an uptick in the COVID-19 risk level in Sarpy County.

Offutt’s 55th Wing posted messages on its social media accounts late Thursday afternoon directing “mandatory mask wear indoors & physical distancing for all individuals regardless of vaccination status.” People also are required to physically distance themselves from one another.

New Defense Department requirements, issued Wednesday, say that all service members, federal and contract employees, and visitors must wear masks in areas of "substantial" or "high" risk of COVID-19 transmission. Those are the two highest of four risk levels as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC defines substantial transmission as 50 to 99 cases per 100,000 people over the preceding seven days, or places where between 8% and 10% of tests are positive for infection. High risk is more than 100 cases per 100,000 people and positivity rates of 10% or more.

Sarpy County showed "substantial" risk of COVID-19 transmission for the period of July 21-27, according to a CDC tracking map, with a positive test rate of 8.48%. The Sarpy/Cass Health Department's COVID-19 dashboard shows an even higher positive test rate of 20.1% for the week ending July 24. Douglas County, including Omaha, is listed as "high" risk.

The announcement drew more than 100 comments on the Offutt Air Force Base Facebook page, some of them angry, both for and against the mask mandate.

"It’s pretty simple. If you don’t want to adhere to the policy on Offutt AFB, don’t go there," wrote a commenter named Chris Stewart. "No need to argue about it, since nobody is going to convince anyone to change opinions at this point."

The Offutt announcement came the same day President Joe Biden announced that about 2 million civilian federal employees will have to get vaccinations or else wear masks and physically distance themselves from coworkers and get regular COVID-19 tests. The requirement doesn't apply to 1.4 million uniformed military personnel, but Biden did direct the Pentagon to look into adding the COVID shot to a list of mandatory vaccinations military service members must get.

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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