Hastings City Council vote to extend mask mandate fails

City buildings will still require masks
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 6:25 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) -A proposal to extend the mandatory mask mandate in the city of Hastings failed to gain final approval at a Monday City Council meeting. The proposal failed, despite a 5-1 vote in favor of approving the amended policy.

However, a vote to suspend the rules and give second and third round approval as well fell short of the needed votes. Suspending the rules would have allowed the policy to go in effect immediately, prior to the end of the current mask mandate scheduled for 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

The vote to suspend the rules requires a three-fourths majority vote of all elected members. With two members absent and not voting, the 5-1 vote fell short of the minimum threshold.

The policy will end as expected on Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. At the same time, ordinances in Kearney and Grand Island will also expire.

A statement from the City of Hastings released Tuesday morning said that although the policy failed to take effect immediately, it will automatically be placed on the next council meeting agenda for its second and final reading.

The statement went on to say that the City would continue to require visitors to wear masks inside all city buildings at this time. Businesses can also chose to require masks “according to each establishment’s own policies”.

At Monday evening’s council meeting, several members of the community spoke during the public hearing, including South Heartland District Health Department Director Michele Bever who urged the council to vote in favor of the extension.

“We wouldn’t ditch our parachute because it slowed us down if we hadn’t actually landed yet,” Bever said. “We have not yet reached their target of sustained community spread, so we need to continue to use all the tools available to us to reduce spread and to keep it low.”

Council member Shawn Hartmann was the one council member to vote against the extension. He says while he agrees with the masks, he heard from him his constituents and voted how the majority asked him to.

“In the last 36 hours, I was just bombarded with people who wanted it to sunset on Tuesday,” Hartmann said. “That was a pretty stark contrast to what I had been getting up until that point. When I ran for this position I said I would represent my ward and represent them fairly. The majority of them are ready for this to be gone.”

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