City of Lincoln and Lancaster County Coronavirus (COVID-19) - How to Help

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Face Covering Requirement for Lincoln and Lancaster County
graphic of mask
  • The delta variant has caused a large increase in community transmission of COVID-19 in Lancaster County. It is important for everyone to help slow the spread of the virus by wearing masks indoors.
  • Everyone two years of age and older must wear a mask indoors, other than a residence, whether they have been vaccinated or not.
  • If you aren’t fully vaccinated, your mask is one of the most powerful tools you have to protect yourself and others.
  • If you are fully vaccinated, wearing a mask indoors gives you extra protection from getting infected. Fully vaccinated people are well protected from serious illness and death from COVID-19, including the delta variant. But we are seeing cases in vaccinated people, and they can infect others. This is why even if you are fully vaccinated, you are now required to wear a mask indoors.
  • For masks to work properly, they need to completely cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of your face and around your nose. Your mask should be made with two or more layers of tightly woven, breathable material.

Infants and children under two years of age should not wear a mask.

How wearing a mask can slow the spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can then be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth.

  • Protect others: wearing a mask over your mouth and nose lowers the number of droplets and particles that you release into the air when you breathe or talk.
  • Protect yourself: wearing a mask over your mouth and nose also lowers the number of droplets and particles from others that get into your nose, mouth, and lungs.
Why it’s Important to Wear a Face Mask
Wear a mask to protect yourself and others

Transmission probabilities with and without masks (courtesy Bryan Health)

Face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The use of face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 is supported by multiple professional medical and public health associations in Nebraska such as the Lancaster County Medical Society, Nebraska Medical Association, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Nebraska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Nebraska Nurses Association, Nebraska Academy of Family Physicians, Nebraska Academy of Physician Assistants, Children's Hospital and Medical Center, Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors. You can also find a summary of evidence on the effectiveness of face masks at this CDC Science Brief.

Below are a sample of resources that provide factual information about common myths about masks, the use of masks with children, and the overall effectiveness of masking.

Mask Wearing Requirements and Recommendations

In Lincoln and Lancaster County, all owners and operators of any building, business, or premises, other than a residence, shall require all individuals to wear a face mask while indoors. Everyone two years of age and older must wear a mask in these indoor settings, regardless of their vaccination status.

Everyone*, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask:
  • In all indoor settings, venues, gatherings, and public and private businesses, unless you are able to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other individuals at all times
  • In all schools, childcare facilities, before and after-school programs, day camps
  • In healthcare settings, including long-term care facilities
  • In all indoor sport venues, unless you as an individual are engaged in exercise
  • On all forms of public transport

*There are some people who should not wear a mask, such as children younger than two, and people with certain medical conditions or disabilities.

Recommendations:
  • It is strongly recommended that you wear a mask at private indoor social gatherings with people outside your household, unless everyone at the gathering is fully vaccinated.
  • It is strongly recommended that you wear a mask at crowded outdoor events, such as sporting events or concerts.

The DHM includes exceptions. Masks are not required for the following:

  • Individuals eating or drinking or seated to eat or drink
  • Those exercising
  • Those engaged in an occupation that prevents the wearing of a mask
  • Those obtaining a service or purchasing goods or services that requires the temporary removal of the mask
  • A person giving a speech, lecture, or broadcast to an audience as long as six feet of distance from other individuals is maintained
  • Those individuals who cannot otherwise wear a mask because of a medical condition, a mental health condition, or a disability that prevents the wearing of masks
  • Courts of law; meetings or sessions of the Nebraska Legislature; individuals accessing federal, state, county, or city government services; congregate living settings; group homes and residential drug and/or mental health treatment facilities; or shelters
What kind of mask should I wear?

There are many types of masks you can use to protect against getting and spreading COVID-19. Choose a mask:

  1. That fits snugly against your nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face, AND
  2. That has two or more layers of tightly woven or non-woven material.

Another thing to consider when choosing what mask to wear is how much protection you need. If you will be in a place where COVID-19 spreads more easily, such as a crowded or poorly ventilated room or a bus or plane, you should wear your most protective mask. You get more protection from a mask the tighter it fits (seals around your face) and more it filters the air. Examples of how you can get better protection include if you:

  • Improve how well your mask fits and filters by double masking.
  • Use an N95 respirator, as long as it fits well and you can tolerate it.

See CDC’s Guidance — Choosing a Mask for Different Situations.

Types of masks
Cloth masks
  • Are washable and re-usable.
  • They should have at least two or three layers of washable tightly woven, breathable fabric or two layers with a pocket for a filter.
  • To see if it is tightly woven, see if it blocks light when it is held up to a bright light source. For extra protection, a cloth mask can be worn OVER a surgical mask.
Surgical masks

Also called medical procedure masks, dental masks or disposable masks.

  • Look for a mask that has multiple layers of non-woven material and a nose wire.
  • Be aware that there are surgical-style masks that may look the same as true medical procedure or surgical masks but may not work as well.
  • Throw the mask away if it is wet/or dirty or after a day of use, whichever comes first.
  • For extra protection, a surgical mask can be worn UNDER a cloth mask
N95 and KN95 Respirators

These are designed to filter at least 95% of airborne particles. NIOSH-approved N95 respirators are recommended over KN95s. N95 and KN95 respirators that fit well and provide a tight seal on your face protect you better than a cloth mask on its own or a surgical mask. They may be less comfortable because they filter better. N95/KN95s will only provide full protection if they form a tight seal on your face:

  • Find the right size, style, and model. Respirators with straps that go around the back of the head provide a better seal than those with ear loops.
  • N95/KN95s are not recommended for people with facial hair or for small children.
  • People with breathing difficulties should check with their doctor before wearing a respirator.
  • Do not wear an N95/KN95 with another mask (i.e., do not double mask).
Do not use masks that:
  • Are made of loosely woven fabrics.
  • Are made of a fabric that is hard to breathe through such as leather or plastic.
  • Have valves, vents, or holes.

Bandanas and scarves are not recommended (unless you wear a mask underneath).

See CDC Types of Masks for more information.

How to wear a mask properly

To get the best protection from your mask, make sure that it fits well. It is important that whichever type of mask you use:

  • It completely covers your nose and mouth.
  • It fits snugly against the nose, sides of your face and chin and doesn’t leave a gap.
  • Once you have been wearing the mask around others, try to avoid touching the mask. If you touch any part of the mask other than the ear loops/ties, you should clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
Tips to check that your mask fits
  • Check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask and feel for any air leakages. Make sure no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask.
  • If the mask has a good fit, you will feel warm air come through the front of the mask and may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath.
  • Make sure you can still breathe comfortably and that your vision is not obstructed.
  • If you have to continually adjust your mask, it might not fit properly. Consider trying different types or sizes of masks.
Wearing two masks or “double masking”

“Double masking” is when a cloth mask worn on top of a surgical mask. This makes the surgical mask fit better and adds extra layer(s) of protection.

Important note:

  • Double masking does not work with two surgical masks because they are too loose.
  • Respirators (e.g. N95 or KN95 masks) should not be worn with a second mask.
  • If you try double masking or other ways to improve the fit of your mask, make sure you can still breathe comfortably and your vision is not obstructed.

See CDC Improve the Fit and Filtration of Your Mask to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19 for more information.

Caring for your mask
Cloth masks
  • Place a wet or visibly dirty cloth mask in a sealed plastic bag until you can wash it. Wash it as soon as possible to prevent mold or mildew.
  • Place dry cloth face masks in a bag or bin until they can be washed.
  • Wash your mask after each use.
    • Wash according to the fabric label. You can wash your masks in a washer with your regular laundry using regular laundry detergent.
    • If washing by hand, wash with warm tap water and laundry detergent or soap. Rinse with water.
  • Dry your face mask completely either in a dryer or by air drying.
Who should not wear a mask
  • Children under age 2.
  • People who are cannot safely wear a mask, such as someone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or who is unable to remove a mask without help.
  • Workers in situations where a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by a workplace risk assessment.
  • People who cannot otherwise wear a mask because of a medical condition, a mental health condition, or a disability that prevents the wearing of a mask.
  • Special considerations for persons with communication difficulties or certain disabilities

    Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are an alternative type of mask for people who interact with:

    • People who are deaf or hard of hearing.
    • Children or students learning to read.
    • People learning a new language.
    • People with disabilities.

    These masks make communication easier.

    Appropriate and consistent use of masks may be challenging for some children and for people of any age with certain disabilities, including cognitive, intellectual, developmental, sensory, and behavioral disorders. If you are caring for children and people with certain disabilities, ask their doctor for advice about wearing a mask.

    Face Shields

    A face shield does not meet the requirements of the DHM to wear a face covering over their mouth and nose, since they are open at the sides and bottom. A face shield alone cannot be used in place of a mask – you would have to wear both.

    Enforcement of this Directed Health Measure (DHM)

    An educational approach will be used to gain compliance. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) will evaluate the complaints and determine the best way to provide education to individuals, businesses and organizations that are noncompliant. Education will be first before pursuing enforcement. When necessary, enforcement will generally focus on businesses or individuals that, despite attempts to educate, continue to violate the DHM. Both LLCHD and law enforcement may enforce the DHM.

    • Complaints regarding compliance can be uploaded through UPLNK.lincoln.ne.gov.
    • Businesses with questions can call 402-441-6280.
    • Do not call 911 to report noncompliance with the mask mandate.
    Your Role as an Individual

    You should not ask someone why they aren’t wearing a face mask. It is not your job to intervene if someone isn’t wearing a face mask. Some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing a face mask difficult or dangerous.

    More Information

    From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Frequently Asked Questions About Face Masks

Do individuals that have been vaccinated have to wear a face mask?
Yes.

Do individuals that have already tested positive for COVID-19 still have to wear a face mask?
Yes.

Do I need to wear a face mask when I’m just going over to someone’s house?
No. The DHM does not apply to homes. We strongly recommend wearing one if you’re gathering inside and are unable to maintain six feet of distance from people you don’t live with. Remember, with any gathering, physical distancing is important.

Do I need to wear a face mask while walking my dog, out for a jog, etc.?
No, you do not need to wear a face mask outdoors away from other people. However, it’s a good idea to keep one with you in case you need it.

I’m not able to wear a face mask for a medical condition, mental health reason, or disability. Do I need documentation about why I can’t wear a face mask?
No. However, your place of business, employer or school may require some form of documentation from a licensed medical provider or licensed mental health practitioner.

What standard is used to determine application of exemptions?
If an individual is asked to wear a face mask in a business and expresses that they fall within the exemptions, they should be taken at their word and allowed to patronize the business.

Does the face mask requirement apply to worship services?
Yes, if they are open to the public.

Do I have to wear a face mask when I am using public transportation?
Yes.

Can I wear a face mask that has a valve?
It is not recommended because droplets and particles can get through. We recommend a cloth face mask instead or on top of a face mask with a valve.

My glasses fog up when I wear a face mask. What can I do?
Here are some tips.

What is considered outdoors?
Outdoor spaces are typically open-air spaces with no walls. Opening windows, doors or garage doors to an indoor space does not create an outdoor space.

Are face masks required inside gyms and workout areas?
Yes. However, you may remove your face mask when you are engaged in exercise.

Am I required to wear a face mask in the common areas of my apartment or condo?
Yes, if it is indoors.

If I am in an enclosed office alone with a door, do I need to wear a face mask?
No.

I share a work area with others, do I need to wear a face mask?
Yes, if you are in the same room or workspace you do need to wear a face mask. However, if you are not in the same room or workspace and are able to maintain at least six (6) feet of separation at all times you do not need to wear a mask.

How do I wear a face mask while I’m eating or at a restaurant?
You can remove your face mask while eating and drinking. You should wear it when waiting for your food or in transit inside a restaurant.

Do I need to wear a face mask when I am picking up food outside using curbside service?
No, a face mask is not required, but it is still a good idea.

Are workers that sleep at their place of employment required to wear face masks while sleeping?
No, but physical distancing should be maintained, and good ventilation should be provided.

What do I do if I see someone not wearing a face mask, even though they should be?
Nothing. Some people cannot wear a mask. Just wear your face mask and stay six feet away.

NeighborLNK

The NeighborLNK program is designed to facilitate personal connections by directly linking volunteers with seniors (age 60 and over) or persons with disabilities who are homebound and seeking additional support as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The program is designed to help keep homebound residents healthy, connected, and independent during the physical isolation required by the pandemic, as well as to cultivate bonds of friendship that could potentially last beyond the pandemic.

NeighborLNK volunteers will do errands for the participants and offer companionship through phone or video calls. COVID-19 precautions will be followed, and volunteers will not enter participants' homes.

Practice Healthy Habits

Continue to practice healthy habits:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Stay home when you are sick .
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

When you shop:

  • Stay home if you are sick or if you have symptoms of COVID-19 - fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • Seniors and others at risk for complications from the virus should take advantage of special hours for them at retailers.
  • Arrange for groceries to be delivered, or use the store's curbside pickup service.
  • Only one person in a household should go to the store.
  • Limit grocery shopping to one trip a week.
  • Make a list to limit your time in the store.
  • Wear a face covering and disposable gloves.
  • Do not take backpacks or reusable bags.
  • Use the wipes provided by the stores to clean grocery cart handles
  • Take a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others.
  • Pay attention to one-way aisles and floor markings at the checkouts.
  • Only touch products you intend to buy, especially produce.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes and nose.
  • Cover sneezes and coughs.
  • Instead of using cash, pay for items with credit or debit cards, or use epay options.
  • When you get home, wash your hands, wash all produce, and use wipes for other purchases.
  • Do not return items to the store.
Keep Physical Distance

Follow guidelines for physical distancing and crowd size limits. Even if you aren't showing symptoms of any illness, you could still be carrying the virus and unknowingly spread it to people with compromised immune systems.

Support Local Businesses

If you have the means, continue to support local businesses:

  • Purchase gift cards for future use, if they are offered. Some local gift cards can be found at NebraskaBuyLocal.com.
  • Order take-out or delivery. Many restaurants that don't usually offer these options are making exceptions.
    • Take advantage of free parking spots downtown designated for curbside pickup by looking for the green curbside pickup signs. This site also contains a list of restaurants and establishments downtown offering curbside pickup.
  • Support businesses that are still operating during this period. For a list of open businesses, see the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce's business operation updates and this COVID-19 Lincoln business directory hosted by oh hello!.
  • Purchase a Small Businesses, Big Hearts t-shirt designed by one of Lincoln's own small businesses. Profits go toward supporting small businesses across the state.
  • Tip generously if you can afford it. Tipped workers are some of the first to suffer in times of economic distress.
  • If you're able to work from home and still earn your normal salary, commit to paying someone who provides you with a service – such as a hairdresser or a babysitter – even if they have to stay home.
Volunteer and Reach Out Safely
  • Nebraska Impact has organized a portal at NEvolunteers.com/lincoln for connecting people with opportunities to volunteer with or donate to Lincoln organizations. Volunteers can choose "COVID-19" under "select a category."
  • Service Opportunities during COVID-19 provides volunteer opportunities in the City of Lincoln. If you would like to volunteer or have an unmet need, you can request to have your opportunity listed in Lincoln's GivePulse portal, a volunteer signup web portal. If you are looking to serve, current opportunities are listed below.
  • Reach out to those you know who are isolated or may be at high risk. Ask how they are doing and check in with them regularly.
  • Start a group text with your neighbors and friends to keep up on one another's health and needs.
  • The COVID-19 Mutual Aid Lincoln/Omaha Facebook Group is one way to offer and provide support to community members with specific needs.
  • Start a virtual book club or arrange virtual playdates.
  • Do not hoard supplies like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Panic buying these items will make it harder for at-risk groups to get the things that they need.
  • Make an appointment to donate blood if you can safely do so. Blood banks have been faced with a severe blood shortage as a result of blood drive cancellations. Eligible and healthy donors may make an appointment with the American Red Cross or the Nebraska Community Blood Bank to provide lifesaving blood products to patients.
Volunteer for the Tenant Assistance Project

The Tenant Assistance Project is dedicated to providing access to free attorneys to tenants facing eviction in Lancaster County Court. Most tenants facing eviction cannot afford an attorney, and evidence shows that access to an attorney can help prevent homelessness.

The program is currently seeking volunteer attorneys to represent tenants in a limited scope capacity. Volunteer attorneys will be appropriately trained, have malpractice insurance coverage, and will have the chance to provide an invaluable public service.

Interested volunteers should contact the Volunteer Lawyers Project by emailing nevlp@nevlp.org or calling 531-220-6773.