Gov. Pete Ricketts issued a mandate Thursday that would require Nebraska’s 93 courthouses and other county offices to lift requirements for mask usage inside the buildings.
If they don’t follow the mandate, Ricketts said counties would miss out on a cut of the $100 million in federal COVID-19 money set aside for counties, cities and utilities across the state.
“The governor encourages people to wear a mask,” spokesman Taylor Gage said in an Omaha World-Herald article, “but does not believe that failure to wear a mask should be the basis for denying taxpayers’ services.”
In Dodge County, the governor’s recommendations are already being practiced in the county’s courthouse.
Dodge County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Missel said the courthouse was already practicing optional face mask use prior to Ricketts’ Thursday message.
“When entering the courthouse, there is a station set up next to security and there are masks available, but we don’t mandate that you wear that,” he said. “We’re already practicing what the governor was suggesting.”
Other measures have also been introduced in the courthouse to mitigate the spread of the virus, including installing plexiglass windows in the building’s finance department to separate workers and the public.
“I think we’ve done a good job of managing that process with the best interest of employees and the public in mind,” Missel said.
The courthouse is also implementing social distancing measures to keep the public a safe distance apart from one another. Otherwise, Missel said the building is back to operating as close to “business as usual” as possible.
“Our only hiccup is paying attention to social distancing and working with security staff,” he said. “People will see some lines outside of the courthouse and that’s because we’re trying to make an effort to keep social distancing.”
It’s too early to estimate how much money the county will receive from the state for COVID-19 relief. Missel said the county is documenting any incurred expenses that can be related to COVID-19.
“Our protocol is to document, document and document,” he said. “ ... That will be the list we submit.”
Missel respected Ricketts’ mandate, saying the governor is in a difficult position between balancing the best interest of the public, business and government.