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(March 18, 2020) 

The City of Omaha and the Douglas County Health Department took additional, more restrictive measures Wednesday to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Mayor Jean Stothert signed a proclamation declaring a State of Emergency in the City of Omaha.  City Code allows the order to remain in effect for 72 hours. The Omaha City Council can extend the emergency declaration and voted Tuesday to allow that extension.

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour signed an order limiting attendance at public gatherings, child care centers, and other businesses with walk-in customer traffic.

The diagnosis of the second case of COVID-19 by community spread in Douglas County prompted new actions Wednesday, including the immediate order to close Omaha bars and restaurants until April 30th. Takeout, drive-through windows, and delivery will still be allowed.

Dr. Pour reported a 46-year-old Omaha man tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday.  He became sick with a cough and fatigue last week, was admitted to an intensive care unit on March 15, and tested on March 16. He is no longer in intensive care, but remains hospitalized.

She said he has not left the country or travelled to high-risk areas in the United States, has not had contact with another Covid-19 positive person, and has not attended large public events.  His case is considered “community spread”.

Dr. Pour says he had contact with fewer than three other people so the risk of further exposure to others is low.

The Health Department also reported three additional positive cases, all travel-related. One person travelled to Europe, another to New York, the third to Denver.

There are now 23 positive cases in Omaha; only two people are hospitalized.

The Omaha City Code gives the mayor authority to declare the emergency and take actions “necessary to preserve the health, safety, and property of the citizens of this community”.

“Every one of us understands how difficult it is for everyone in our community,” said Mayor Stothert. “We are trying to prevent and control the spread. We hope this is just a short-term crisis.

Actions permitted by the State of Emergency proclamation include:

  • Prohibit or limit the number of persons who may gather or congregate upon the public highways or public sidewalks, or in any outdoor place, except persons who are awaiting transportation, engaging in recreational activities at a usual and customary place, or peaceably entering or leaving buildings.
  • Establish a curfew limiting the hours when persons may go upon or travel the public streets.
  • Require the closing of cocktail lounges, taverns and bars and prohibit the sale or service of alcoholic beverages in any hotel, restaurant, club or other establishment, and require the closing of other business establishments.

“We have not even discussed curfew,” said Mayor Stothert.

The Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff will enforce the new orders requiring business closings and attendance limits.

“It is our intention to issue a citation for non-compliance, but we are very pleased with compliance from our business community so far,” said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.

Chief Schmaderer and Fire Chief Dan Olsen encouraged citizens to call 911 only for true public safety and medical and rescue emergencies.