Mask mandates shouldn't be needed, but may be necessary

Friday, November 27, 2020

While the governor has resisted the call for statewide mandates, more and more local governments have acted on their own.

Ricketts says imposing a mask mandate may make things worse by creating resentment and resistance, and with this yearís political climate, he may be right.

True, breathing through a piece of cloth is no guarantee you wonít contract or transmit the coronavirus, just as wearing a motorcycle helmet or fastening a seatbelt is no guarantee you wonít be killed or severely injured in a crash.

Your odds are better if you do, however, and lawmakers have been convinced to the point that wearing helmets and seat belts are the law of the land in Nebraska.

Get in a car or motorcycle accident and youíll soon find out how good your health insurance coverage is. A major medical bill is likely to be a life-changing event, easily leading to thousands of dollars of debt at best and bankruptcy at the worst.

Regardless of the cost, however, youíll receive the medical care it takes to keep you alive.

That may not be possible in the case of COVID-19.

There have been 117,582 cases in Nebraska as of Thanksgiving Day and hospitalizations are at their highest level of the pandemic; averaging 968 patients per day. More than 750 Nebraskans have died of COVID-19.

Buckle your seat belts, because itís going to be a bumpy ride over the coming weeks. Despite urgings to the contrary, many of us got together with out-of-town family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, with small gatherings currently the most common setting for transmission of the coronavirus.

If cases increase as many health expect, there wonít be enough hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients who need them. Worse, there wonít be enough staff to care for those who need the beds, and healthcare providers will be in the horrible position of deciding who they are able to save and who they cannot.

Norfolk, York, La Vista, Columbus, Hastings and Grand Island have recently enacted mask mandates, while Papillion, Fremont, Blair and South Sioux City are considering them.

McCook City Manager Nate Schneider said he has looked into the legalities of the issue, but no such proposal was on the table. Masks are encouraged here, however, as they are in North Platte, Scottsbluff, Gearing and Alliance, which also have no mandates.

Local schools have done a good job controlling the spread of the virus, to the point students are probably safer going to school than staying at home where fewer restrictions are in force.

We donít know whether local governments will eventually impose a mask mandate, but if they do, we hope residents will support that decision willingly, knowing it was a difficult choice to make.

Regardless of official rules, we urge residents to do what we can, such as wearing face coverings in public, staying home when possible and avoiding the three Cs: crowded places, close contact and confined spaces.

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