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Beatrice community members react to city mask mandate
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Beatrice community members react to city mask mandate

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It’s been two full days since the Beatrice Board of Health enacted a mask mandate for the city, and local business owners have different thoughts on the mandate’s impact.

The mandate states that until Tuesday, Dec. 15, individuals must wear a mask while in any indoor public facility, unless actively eating or drinking. The mandate also limits bars and restaurants to eight people per table, with no exemption for playing games, and no bar seating whatsoever. The board also specified that the mandate is required when individuals are utilizing indoor fitness centers.

Board of health member and Beatrice Police Chief Bruce Lang proposed the eight-person table restriction in all instances, because he said it will remove the grey area for the police department to enforce the mandate. 

Bryan Seibel, the owner of Anytime Fitness in Beatrice, said that while wearing a mask and working out is not ideal, that gym members will do it, and he thinks the mandate is the right thing to do.

“I had some initial questions about how we as a business could play our role in making sure this is done in an effective manner…I talked to Chief Lang, and I really feel good about how we play our role in keeping the spread of COVID down,” Seibel said.

Lang described a public space as anywhere a person is allowed to enter freely.

“If you have an office building and people are in their individual offices and the public can’t walk in, then that’s not a public place,” Lang said. “A public place would be a store, for example, where the public can walk in freely. A restaurant, a bar, city offices, those kind of things where the public is allowed to enter, then folks need to wear a mask when they do that, and the people in those facilities need to wear a mask when they’re dealing with them.”

At the Beatrice Mary Family YMCA, masks are required when entering and walking the hallways of the building, using the gymnasium, doing an exercise class or in the wellness room.

When enacting the mandate, Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth said that the purpose is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while also enacting policies that would not hurt local business or the economy.

Ron Tegtmeier, owner of Legends of Nebraska in Indian Creek Mall, said that he’s all for anything that can help end the pandemic.

“I’ve already distanced long ago, I have dividers between almost all of the tables, and we’ve been wearing masks for several weeks continuously now on the dining room floors,” Tegtmeier said. “So basically nothing has changed for us. It’s business as usual.”

Neal Ostermann from the American Legion in Beatrice said the mandate restriction on bar seating will impact business, and that he has staff members not entering the organization if masks are required.

“I don’t think it’s proven to help anything yet,” Ostermann said. “I look at communities like Lincoln that’s had a mask mandate for a couple of months, and the numbers are still rising. I don’t think it’s going to have the impact that they believe that it is. It’s an unnecessary stranglehold that they’re putting on the community.”

Lang said about 75% of the phone calls he’s received has been in support of the mandate, and looking for guidance on how to properly implement it.

“There are criminal implications, if in fact someone was not compliant or refused to comply, but we’re hoping we don’t have to go there,” Lang said. “We didn’t have to before. I think most people will be reasonable.”

Correction: The Beatrice Mary Family YMCA is requiring masks while individuals are exercising.

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