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Douglas County Health Director doesn’t have the authority to enforce mask mandates, Nebraska Attorney General filed lawsuit

Omaha, Nebraska – With the Omicron wave in place, many state, cities, counties once again are considering implementing different kinds of pandemic measures in an effort to slow down the spread of the virus.

Vaccine and mask mandates are surely among them and these two have been two major issues for Governors, the White House administration and country’s health leaders.

Since the start of the pandemic, many states, most of them Republican-led states including Texas, Arkansas and Florida, have been banning all of types of mandates claiming that people should have choice and to decided on themselves if they are about to get vaccinated or wear masks in certain places.

Now, a similar type of problem happens in Omaha where the Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse decided to enforce mask mandate for all indoor places withing the Omaha city limits. However, the state officials, including the Nebraska Attorney General, believe Dr. Huse doesn’t have the authority to implement such a mandate.

Since the mask mandate was officially enforced, the Nebraska Attorney General said Thursday morning that he filed a lawsuit late Wednesday seeking to stop enforcement of the Omaha mask mandate.

AG Doug Peterson claims that Huse doesn’t have the authority to implement such mandate as she is obligated to seek permission from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, something which she didn’t. According to Peterson, Huse unilaterally issued the mandate exceeding her authority under local and state law.

Omaha mayor, Jean Stothert, said that he is not supporting the decision for mask mandate, but believes that Dr. Huse has the authority to implement such a mandate. On the contrary, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts opposed him claiming that Dr. Huse doesn’t have the authority to enforce mask mandate without prior approval by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“Abuse of power like this undermines trust in our nation’s pandemic response. It’s dismaying to see Douglas County’s Health Director sidestep the proper legal channels and overreach her authority. I fully support the Attorney General’s lawsuit to uphold the rule of law in Nebraska,” Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said.

Prior to the mask mandate enforcement, Dr. Huse sought legal counsel and it was determined that she has the authority to implement mask mandate within the city areas, according to the city code, but she doesn’t have the authority to enforce county-wide mask mandate.

This is a developing story. Once more details are available, we will update the case.

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