Omaha's Mask Mandate, by the Numbers


In the 30 days before Omaha implemented a mask mandate, the average number of new coronavirus cases Douglas County reported per day was 110. Since the Aug. 11th vote, we have dropped to 95 per day.

However, since that could have more to do with testing -- and since the rallying cry from the beginning of this pandemic is we don't want to overwhelm the health care system, let's look at inpatients thought to have COVID-19. In the month before the mandate, we averaged 86.7 inpatients per day. Since Aug. 11th, it has risen to 93.2.

So, a drop in new cases, but a rise in hospitalizations. Are we overwhelming the hospitals, which was originally the reason behind the early restrictions?

In the month before the mask mandate, the average occupancy rate in Douglas County was 79.9%. Since the vote, it is 81.8%. But this does not only count coronavirus patients, as we've allowed elective surgeries for awhile now, and we do take on patients from outside Douglas County. And, of course, people do get sick with other things and have accidents and such.

The occupancy rate doesn't seem to have much to do with the positive case results or the number of inpatients. On one particularly high day for inpatients, with 118 COVID-19 hospitalizations, the occupancy rate was 79%. On on recent low day, with 69 COVID inpatients, the occupancy rate was 84%.

So, we don't seem to be overwhelming the health care system with COVID patients.

As far as deaths go, we've lost 32 of our family, friends and neighbors since August 11th. The average age of these individuals I'm estimating to be 75.6 years old. The reason for the estimate is due to the fact that the county doesn't provide exact ages. They'll report "a man in his 70s" or "a woman 85+." I have put all of these ages in the middle of the estimate. So, a man in his 70s goes down as being 75 (though he may be 71), while a woman 85+ goes down as being 85 (while she may be 89).

In the month before the mask mandate, we lost 35 people, and -- though we had a few much younger people pass who were noted to have underlying conditions -- the average age was 70.2.

Would these individuals have been lost if not for coronavirus? While that’s impossible to determine, Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said at last week’s City Council meeting that 89% of the county’s deaths are people with an underlying health condition.

Is the mask mandate having an impact? You could look at the numbers and make that determination one way or the other, probably depending on your politics. (Everything comes down to politics these days, right?)

Dr. Pour’s prescription for Omaha is to continue the mask mandate, and all other public health suggestions (presumably including keeping kids out of Omaha Public Schools and extracurricular activities), until we get down to an average of 5.7 new cases in the county per day. Yesterday’s daily total was 110. So, not even close.

That said: How many of these new cases required hospitalization? Should that be a factor in Omaha? Gov. Ricketts has used it as his guide to loosen restrictions in the state, which move to Phase 4 on Monday.

(I have a variety of opinions about all of this, but I've tried not to let my big-fat-mouthed opinions seep into my assessment of these numbers. I'll let my friends of all political persuasions on social media let loose as I post this on Facebook and Twitter, and confine my time to pop off each morning from 9 to 11 a.m. on NewsRadio 1110 KFAB.)

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