The legislative chambers inside the Omaha/Douglas County Civic Center.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday to discuss the Douglas County Corrections Department as the pandemic retreats.

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Deputy Director Amber Redmond gave a monthly report on COVID-19 and said the correctional facilities were declared COVID-free on Feb. 25 when they cleared the last quarantine housing unit. She said the department is considering closing some housing units all together since there’s no longer a need for quarantine.

Redmond said they are moving towards normalcy, and are reinstating programs that have been closed throughout the pandemic.

“We’re moving out of virtual programming to in-person programming, so that’s a good shift for us,” Redmond said.

The corrections department is also considering a “Red, Yellow, Green” system to manage COVID restrictions based on transmission in the facilities. Since there are currently no cases, all restrictions have been lifted, but Redmond said they are ready to respond if there is a rise in cases.

The County Board approved an agreement between the corrections department and the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School to provide data for a large-scale research study. The study will measure the effect of pretrial incarceration. Rehabilitative Services Administrator Justine Wall said inmates’ private information will be protected, and they have to consent to participate in the study.

Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse gave a weekly COVID-19 update to the board. The county’s transmission rate has now fallen out of the “substantial” category down to “moderate,” Huse said. 

With case numbers so low, Board Chair Mary Ann Borgeson said they discussed reducing COVID-19 updates to monthly. For the first time, Huse didn’t wear a mask during her presentation.

The Omaha City Council also met Tuesday for a brief, 20-minute meeting. An ordinance to amend the municipal code to help the Omaha Police Department track and regulate the sale of catalytic converters due to a rise in thefts was laid over for small language adjustments.

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“We do intend to move forward with this,” Councilmember Vinny Palermo said. “We do want to get this right, and we want to get this right the first time.”

The Nebraska Unicameral is also considering a bill to curb thefts of the emission control device. The City Council will vote on the ordinance next week. (Zolpidem)  

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