Mayor Issues Local Emergency Declaration

Published on March 16, 2020

City of Lincoln
Mayor's Office

2020 Media Releases

Media Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, City Communications, 402-441-7831

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird today declared a state of emergency in Lincoln due to the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. The Mayor will ask the City Council to affirm the declaration at its meeting this afternoon. The local declaration, which follows declarations by both the state and federal governments, will allow the City to receive potential federal and state reimbursement for crisis-related expenditures and to access emergency reserve funds if needed.

"We face an extraordinary moment in our history, one that is bringing with it extraordinary disruption to our daily lives," Mayor Gaylor Baird said. "This emergency declaration allows the city to deploy the resources necessary to manage what will continue to be a rapidly evolving situation."

Although we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lincoln, the Mayor said it is just a matter of time before we do. "It is imperative that we all do our part to prevent the number of those cases from rising too quickly and overwhelming our healthcare sector," she said.

The Mayor said the city is committed to continuing critical city services. Several weeks ago, she directed all city directors to update their Continuity of Operations plans, and, as of this week, has instituted a new telework policy so that city employees who are able and approved to work from home can do so. "Like many businesses, we have adjusted some of our work, in light of school closures and to reflect good public health practices during this pandemic," she said.

In addition to sanitizing counters and other items frequently used by the public, the following are some of the steps city departments are taking to adapt and prepare:

Aging Partners

Aging Partners will close all its Senior Centers and the Fitness Center and cancel all event and training programming beginning Wednesday, March 18. The agency is working with Tabitha to deliver meals to the homes of the most frail seniors, and take these steps:

  • Considering options for pausing non-critical services so that those resources can be focused on COVID-19
  • Developing contingencies for access to meals for those seniors who are most vulnerable and who depend upon our senior centers for daily meals
  • Reaching out to elder clients to check on their future needs
  • Adapting the methods used to provide care management services to reduce the spread of virus to clients and staff, including less face-to-face and more telephone interaction.

"Seniors are of particular risk due to health conditions and age, and families should be planning how they will care for their loved ones if someone in the family becomes ill," said Randy Jones, Aging Partners Director. "Friends, family and neighbors should check on the elderly regularly to make sure they are healthy. Other ways to help are to offer food and medication pick-up and delivery. The community depends upon those caregivers - whether family members or professionals - to continue their services if healthy, but also to plan on contingencies so that care can continue to be provided."

For more information, visit or call 402-441-7070.

Building and Safety

Over the next two weeks, the department plans to implement steps to reduce the need for people to visit the office. These include allowing electronic submittal of all applications and plans and conducting project-related meetings via remote video conferencing systems.

For more information visit (keyword: building) or call 402-441-7521.

Lincoln Electric System

LES asks that customers pay their bills online or by phone, mail or drop-box. Customers are urged to call LES at 402-475-4211 if they cannot pay their bill. LES has temporarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment, but the utility wants to help customers make payment arrangements, so they don't get further behind.

For more information, visit or call 402-475-4211.

Lincoln City Libraries

All libraries remain open with regular hours, except for the Williams Branch in Arnold Elementary, which will remain closed as long as public schools are not in session. At the recommendation of the Health Department, all library programming has been cancelled until further notice. All due dates on library materials are being changed to May 1, so patrons do not need to get out to return items, and there is never a fine on youth materials.

"We are encouraging people to use our downloadable materials, using the Libby and Hoopla apps," said Library Director Pat Leach. "Library staff is available to help get people started on those options. There's one particular resource on our website called Tumblebooks that reads books to children. That's a great option for parents who will be working from home."

For more information visit or call 402-441-8500.

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department

The Health Department is the lead agency for the community's coronavirus preparation and response. At this time, no changes are being made to the regular Health Department services such as immunization clinics, WIC services, and dental clinics.

For more information, visit or call 402-441-8006.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue and Lincoln Police Department

Communication Center employees will ask callers if the patient is experiencing a fever, cough or trouble breathing. If the answer is yes, the 911 operator will tell responders that a "doorway triage" must take place.

In a doorway triage situation, LFR will respond by having one provider go to the door in a mask, gown, eye protection and gloves. If able, the patient will be asked to come outside of the building to a cot and then into the ambulance for further treatment and evaluation. If that is not possible, two responders will go into the home to evaluate the patient in the same personal protective equipment (PPE). In an emergency, all members of the arriving medical personnel will respond inside the residence in PPE to take care of the patient.

For more information on LFR, visit or call 402-326-1348.

In a doorway triage situation, LPD employees will attempt to limit the number of staff entering a building and to ensure PPE is worn.

For more information on LPD, visit or call the non-emergency number at 402-441-6000. Call 911 for all emergencies.

Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department

The school age childcare programs that are implemented when LPS closes for breaks for snow days are available for those already enrolled in before- and after- school programs.

Full-day childcare services for students in kindergarten through fifth grade are available at Belmont and Calvert Recreation Centers with potential enrollment of 30 at Belmont and 30 at Calvert, and social distancing methods are being practiced these sites. The department will offer the program until advised to discontinue by the Health Department.

The Easterday Recreation Center is now closed because of their work with vulnerable populations. Programs that have been discontinued until further notice include preschool programs at Calvert and Irving Recreation Centers and the Pioneers Park Nature Center; adaptive recreation clubs; and Senior Ballroom dancing.

The adult volleyball games and upcoming youth flag football spring season are cancelled until further notice. The Hyde Observatory at Holmes Lake is cancelling all programming until further notice.

Interviews for summer employment will continue using telephone interviews or modified in-person interviews, with increased distance between staff and interviewees.

Many UNL students work at the departments Community Learning Center programs, and the number of UNL students who choose to leave Lincoln may impact the number of children that can be served.

For more information, visit or call 402-441-7847.

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities

  • Transportation: All intelligent transportation systems such as traffic signals, message signs, and cameras can be operated remotely as needed. It is standard operating procedure to deploy on-call crews and contractors as required for any infrastructure emergency response.

For more information, visit or call 402-441-7711.

  • Utilities: Some non-essential activities are being discontinued, including the meter replacement program and in-house meter reading. If customers are unable to pay their bill, they are urged to call Lincoln Water System (LWS) at 402-441-7551. LWS has temporarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment, but the utility wants to help customers make payment arrangements, so they don't get further behind.

"We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our customers and provide them with clean, safe drinking water and essential sanitation," said LTU Assistant Director of Utilities Donna Garden. "According to the EPA, there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 through water utilities. There is no reason to purchase bottled water or to boil water."

For more information, visit or call 402-441-7551.

  • StarTran: As a result of UNL and LPS closures, StarTran is modifying these route schedules:

* UNL bus routes 24-Holdrege and 25-Vine will operate on a reduced service schedule until this fall.

* UNL routes 22-NIC City and 23-NIC East will be suspended until further notice.

* Booster routes, which provide services to a number of LPS schools, will be suspended while LPS is closed.

Handivan services will continue as normal.

StarTran staff will continue to clean buses daily, and bus operators are equipped with hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, and masks. StarTran will soon be using an electrostatic sprayer and disinfectant spray to disinfect buses at the end of the day.

For more information, visit or call 402-476-1234.


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