From the start, the city of Kearney’s official response to the coronavirus has been one of extreme caution. We strongly urge that our city’s leaders continue their cautious approach, and that Kearney’s mask mandate remain in effect until a substantial number of area residents have been vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the Kearney City Council will discuss lifting Kearney’s mandate. That would be a mistake. Rescinding the mandate at this moment would needlessly expose people to the coronavirus and signal that all is clear — a gesture that could encourage casual attitudes and lead to risky behavior.
The last thing we want is for COVID cases to rebound, just as we’ve begun to get things under control.
Until 80% of area residents have been vaccinated, mask wearing and other preventive measures must continue. COVID-19 deaths are preventable, but it requires widespread participation — mask wearing, social distancing, sanitizing surfaces and hand washing.
Participation is the beauty of Kearney’s mandate.
Enacted by a unanimous 5-0 vote on Nov. 17 with a sunset date of Feb. 23, the city’s requirement that people wear face coverings in public has contributed greatly to reducing the spread of the virus.
Masks block much of the virus-carrying droplets expelled into the air when people cough or sneeze. People who wear masks help to protect those around them from getting sick.
Kearney’s mandate is doing what the City Council intended when it heeded the urgings of local health care executives. They told council members that their doctors and nurses were overrun with COVID patients. Health care workers were mentally and emotionally exhausted, and fearful because there appeared to be no end in sight.
Today it’s a different picture, thanks in large part to the mandate. Case numbers are down and fewer COVID patients are being treated at Kearney hospitals. Kearney’s cautious strategy is saving lives.
Thanks to the mandate, we’re winning the race against COVID. But let’s not drop out of the race, not yet. We will not achieve herd immunity until 80% of the population is vaccinated. At the moment, about 4.5% of Nebraskans age 16 and older have received their shots.
We urge the City Council — out of an abundance of caution — to stay the course. Don’t pull out of the race early by lifting the mandate before vaccinations truly protect the citizens you govern.
Now is not the time for avoidable risks. Don’t decide — out of an abundance of misplaced confidence — that you’ve done enough. Slow and steady wins the race and, in this case, wearing a mask keeps us in the race.