Hastings Board of Health advance mask policy to city council

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:25 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The Hastings Board of Health met Friday to take the next steps towards a mask policy for the city.

Members of the board discussed the COVID situation in Hastings being at a crisis level and the mask policy can help turn things around. All five members of the board of health have approved this measure to move forward to be voted on by the city council.

“I absolutely think we are in a crisis, we need to respond, our community needs to respond,” City Council President Paul Hamelink said. “We have to do something to address the issues of our hospital beds in particular because this stretches far beyond COVID.”

The ordinance would require face coverings where the public is allowed with some exceptions and could be enforced by police. Michele Bever of South Heartland District Health Department reported Adams County is averaging 56 new COVID cases a day. There is a concern of the hospital capacity filling up as hospitalizations rise.

“Our regional hospitals are very close to capacity. Patients who under normal circumstances who would be cared for in ICUs are being managed in medical surgical units because there are no beds or not enough staff in ICUs and nowhere to transfer them,” Bever said.

Bever said long-term care facilities, child care centers, and schools have been affected by the virus.

“We want to keep businesses open,” Mayor Corey Stutte said. “Right now we are creeping up on the governor’s trigger for moving back in for some more severe DHMs and we don’t want to see that happen during the holiday season. If there is any way we can do this I think it’s important that we do.”

The city physician, Dr. Mackenzie Hemje, works at Hastings Family Medical Center and has worked closely with COVID patients. He has found that the use of masks has cut down on the rate of spread from their patients.

“Whether it’s in our office or other offices, our patients that are positive for COVID and families we have seen have less transmission on contact tracing,” Dr. Hemje said.

Mayor Stutte said people have suggested waiting to see how Kearney’s mask policy works. It will take weeks to see the change there and even longer to see change in Hastings. Hastings also wants to be consistent with Kearney and Grand Island with the mask policy. He said science shows masks help and actions need to be taken now.

The next steps for the mask policy is to move forward to the city council to be voted on Monday night. The meeting will be open to the public. There will be some restrictions to capacity and anyone visiting will have to wear a mask.

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