A city ordinance requiring protective face masks in public expires tonight.
The mask mandate took effect on Nov. 24 and will expire at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
An effort to extend the mask mandate for another three months was rejected Feb. 9 by the Grand Island City Council.
City buildings such as City Hall and Grand Island Public Library still will require visitors to wear masks.
Businesses may continue to require masks, but it will no longer be enforced by the city.
Mayor Roger Steele encourages the people of Grand Island to wear a mask while out in public.
“I wear a mask. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Steele said. “As I go out and about around Grand Island, into our businesses, our grocery stores, I see most people wearing a mask, so I would ask them to continue to do so.”
Wearing a mask helps the city and its businesses and protects critical services, such as safety, utilities and medical personnel, he said.
“It’s the basic duty all of us have to try to protect ourselves and also protect one another. If everyone wears a mask, we’re doing that,” Steele said.
“Our infection numbers are down and I fully believe that’s because the people of Grand Island did the right thing and protected themselves by wearing a mask.”
Central District Health Department continues to strongly encourage people to wear masks in public settings.
“We know that the virus is still out there, and we have not won the battle yet. We can only assure the safety of our community when everyone wears a mask,” said Teresa Anderson, CDHD director.
Masks work, Anderson emphasized, protecting both the individuals wearing the masks as well the people around them.
When the mandate was implemented, Grand Island had reached a peak of 826 positive cases in one week, far exceeding the first wave of 447 cases in one week in the spring.
Since the mandate, those numbers have dropped to 83 cases reported last week, the lowest since September.
“Within three weeks our numbers had dropped to half, as far as hospitalizations,” Anderson said. “We believe the masks were a great factor in reducing that number.”
Steele said he would like to see such positive trends continue.
“Our infection rates are lower. Our vaccination procedure is well-organized,” he said. “We want to wear a mask. We want to avoid crowds and close contact with other people. We want to stay out of confined spaces.”
Steele added, “We have a lot of wonderful things going for us and we want to keep that good news going.”
Jon Rosenlund, Grand Island/Hall County Emergency Management director, said wearing masks, along with other COVID-19 precautions, has helped to reduce the patient load at local medical facilities.
Rosenlund also encourages the community, its businesses and its organizations to continue to support disease-prevention strategies.
“Please continue to maintain a social distance of 6 feet, avoid crowded and enclosed spaces, and wear a mask to reduce the spread and to protect yourself,” he said. “Consider this the fourth quarter of our fight against COVID. It’s not over yet, but together we can Finish Strong Nebraska.”
Anderson is asking people who are against wearing a mask to think about others.
“If you’re not worried about catching any viruses yourself, think about the people you care about and love, think about others, and wear a mask to protect them,” she said.
The rollout of COVID-19 vaccine continues to go well locally, Anderson said.
Since late December, nearly 7,100 people have received the vaccine in the Central District.
Volunteers have been helping CDHD staff members to provide clinics nearly every day.
“It’s great to see people offer their time,” Anderson said. “This is our community and this is what people do here. They step up and say, ‘How can I help?’”
For more information about current COVID-19 case rates and vaccine administration, visit cdhd.ne.gov.