Fremont will not move forward with any form of mask mandate in the immediate future, incoming mayor Joey Spellerberg told the Tribune.
Spellerberg said there have not been any discussions about the potential of instituting a mandate in the area, even as cases continue to rise in the county.
“They are communicating where we’re at at this point with the spike and that we need to take this seriously,” he said. “It’s a collaborative effort with the community.”
Dodge County has reported 578 cases during the last two weeks. Both Washington and Saunders counties have reported 340 and 266 new cases over the last two weeks, respectively.
Both Beatrice and Kearney have recently enacted mask mandates, joining Omaha and Lincoln as major municipalities across the state to make the decision.
Grand Island’s City Council is expected to take up the issue of enacting a mask requirement during its Nov. 24 meeting.
Spellerberg said he believes the majority of people in Fremont are already wearing masks voluntarily.
I think we’re already, from what I’ve seen, doing everything we can do,” he said. “I’ve gone to the grocery store and things like that and I see Fremonters doing all they can to help slow the spread.”
He pointed to Lincoln and Omaha, the first two cities in the state to enact a citywide mask mandate, as reason to be skeptical about the effectiveness of the directive.
“You look at Omaha and Lincoln and some of these places that have put in mandates and it hasn’t really worked,” he said.
Douglas County has recorded a state-high 8,402 positive tests over the past two weeks, while Lancaster county has recorded 3,247 positive tests.
The two counties are also the two most densely populated in the state, with Douglas County home to 571,327 Nebraskans and Lancaster home to an additional 319,090.
On Tuesday, Gov. Pete Ricketts said his administration would not interfere with cities that pass mask mandates, provided they act within the law.
Ricketts reinforced his disagreement with mandating broader mask use during the press conference, but did not argue against cities issuing their own orders following consultation with their legal counsel.
Spellerberg said mask usage is an important tool in slowing the spread of the virus in the area, but it’s just one part of a larger, cohesive plan.
“We have to just be diligent with our social distancing and getting in close contact with others and groups in confined spaces,” he said. “Yes, the mask is an important part of that at this point.”
He added that he was impressed with the people of Fremont, saying he believed the community was doing a good job of voluntarily wearing masks when entering public spaces.
“They are wearing the masks and a lot of businesses are requiring them when you walk in,” he said. “People have taken it upon themselves to protect one another and do what they can.”
Spellerberg said he would put his faith in the people of Fremont to do whatever was necessary to slow the spread of the virus in the area.
“I don’t think the mandate is necessarily the answer to kind of help that,” he said. “And, enforcing that can also be difficult as well. I just think that we all know where we’re at at this point with where the virus is and, collectively together, we can all do our part.”
He added that he believes Fremonters understand the situation in the area, which will only reinforce their desire to follow recommended guidelines.
“I think, when it comes down to it, we want to protect each other,” Spellerberg said. “We want to do what’s right for each other. We’re Nebraskans and we understand the seriousness of this and we’re going to do everything we can. I have faith in them.”