Douglas County to consider loosening mask mandate to only events with 500+ people in attendance

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Article last updated at 4:05 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4:

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will consider an emergency health order that loosens current restrictions and only requires masks for indoor gatherings with more than 500 people in attendance.


The order would go into effect Feb. 10 and last through March 9. The current health order, which requires masks in all public spaces in Douglas County, is set to expire on Feb. 9, unless commissioners act to extend it.

The emergency mask mandate went into effect Jan. 7 as new COVID-19 cases in the county soared past previous record highs. In the past week, those numbers have started to drop, though numbers of cases still far exceed previous pandemic peaks.

“As of today, 4,157 active cases have been reported in Douglas County, according to Lawrence Douglas County Public Health,” according to a county news release Friday. “That’s nearly seven times higher than one year ago when there were 612 active cases reported on Feb. 4, 2021. The 14-day moving average for new cases is at 193 cases per day, compared to 27 cases one year ago.”

County health officials strongly encourage masks in crowded spaces to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Click here to see the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence, the Lawrence school district, and Douglas County on the Times’ dashboard.

“The community’s response to last month’s health order has been amazing and also critical in helping our healthcare system weather the worst of Omicron,” said Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher, deputy county health officer and infectious disease specialist at LMH Health, according to the release. “I do believe things will get better from here, but right now Douglas County is still very much in the thick of it.”

Dr. Thomas Marcellino, county health officer, said in the release that “it’s especially important to wear them (masks) in large crowds where people are likely coming from other communities.”

As with the current health order, there are exemptions in the new one. Those include children ages 2 and younger; people with medical conditions, mental health conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a face covering; people who are deaf or hard of hearing; people engaged in religious services, ceremonies or activities; people who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverages while they are actively eating or drinking; and people who are engaged in a court-related proceeding, according to the release.

The Douglas County Commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Those in attendance will be required to wear masks. The meeting will also be available via Zoom.

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