COVID-19 Risk Dial in Green for First Time
Published on May 18, 2021
Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today announced that the COVID-19 Risk Dial will move to green for the first time since the dial was implemented in May 2020. The green level indicates a minimal and controlled level of COVID-19 in Lancaster County, meaning transmission is low. On the color-coded dial, red represents the highest risk of COVID-19 spread, and green represents the lowest risk. The dial will remain in green until further notice.
The Mayor and Health Director Pat Lopez also announced that the new Directed Health Measure (DHM) that will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 21 does not include a mask requirement. Masks are, however, still strongly recommended for those who are unvaccinated and those in some professions.
“The people of Lincoln and Lancaster County have demonstrated great resilience and a deep commitment to protecting one another through vaccination and preventive actions,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said. “Because of this, we are able today to reach an historic moment in our community’s pandemic story. These changes would not be possible without the actions of our experienced Health Department team, our tireless medical professionals, our committed community partners, and our caring residents.”
Lopez said masks are still recommended for these individuals:
- Unvaccinated employees of restaurants, bars and other food establishments who have direct contact with the public
- Childcare providers who are not fully vaccinated
- Employees of barber shops, hair salons, body art facilities, cosmetologists, estheticians and massage therapists (when working with clients)
Lopez said those in health care settings, congregate living settings and schools should continue to follow CDC guidance on masks. Fully vaccinated people must also wear masks when required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace policies. Some businesses and institutions may still require masks as well.
“We also know that people may have different comfort levels when it comes to removing their masks,” Lopez said. “Parents of children under age 12 for instance may choose to continue to wear masks. It’s important for us to be aware of those differing comfort levels and to be understanding. If you are fully vaccinated and want to continue to wear your mask in public places, we encourage you to do so.”
Under the new DHM, all indoor and outdoor spaces will be open to full capacity.
Plans for large outdoor events will no longer be required but events at indoor venues with a capacity of more than 500 people will still require approval from the Health Department.
The position of the Risk Dial is based on multiple local indicators and information from the previous three weeks:
- The number of new weekly cases dropped to 78 for the week ending May 15. It’s the first week the number of new cases has dropped below 100 since the week ending June 26.
- The community positivity rate decreased from 7.3 percent the week ending April 24 to 2.7 percent the week ending May 15.
- The number of local patients hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to remain around 30. Only about 6 to 7 percent of the local hospitals’ medical surge beds have been occupied by COVID-19 patients.
- The number of local deaths has dropped from 23 in February to six in March, five in April, and three so far in May.
- About 58 percent of the local population age 16 and over is fully vaccinated.
Lopez said 113 local residents have contracted COVID-19 variants, but those variants are not having a major impact at this time. “Overall, we have been winning the race between infections and injections,” she said. “While we can’t predict the future, we do know that the more people who are vaccinated, the less opportunity the virus and its variants will have to spread in our community. And with the Pfizer vaccine now being given to 12- to 15-year-olds, we will be able to vaccinate even more of our local residents.”
Mayor Gaylor Baird also announced that the weekly Tuesday COVID-19 briefings will be discontinued. Briefings will be scheduled if conditions warrant. LLCHD will continue to issue updates every weekday.
For more information, visit COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov or call the Health Department hotline at 402-441-8006.