HASTINGS – The Hastings City Council will vote on Monday on whether or not to extend the mask policy in the city or to let it expire on Tuesday. At their work session on Thursday they discussed what actions should be taken and South Heartland District Health Director Michele Bever spoke at the meeting.
Bever said that although the case number and hospitalizations are dropping in the district, they still aren’t as low as they would like them to be. She also said that in order to achieve herd immunity 70 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated and only 11 percent are right now. The department is also concerned about the coronavirus variants.
They are able to spread more quickly in people and they also may not be as susceptible to the treatments that we have that have been developed. So it may not be that we have the right tools to combat it if it does spread here. And also the vaccines we have right now may not be as effective on these variants. So it’s really important that we keep our virus spread low. So that there’s less chance that the variants can spread to our communities or take hold in our communities.
Dr James Lawler, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, spoke at the worksession as well and he said now is not the time to let up on precautions.
When we layer facemasks, which reduce shedding from people who are asymptomatic, and we combine that with distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and all of the other community mitigation measures that we put in place we get significant interruption of transmission in the community. And that’s what’s been responsible for our declining case rates here in Nebraska, and across the country, for the last couple of months. So I would strongly recommend that we do not let up on those precautions, right now.
The policy was enacted in accordance with Grand Island and Kearney and the Grand Island City Council voted to let the policy expire at their most recent meeting.