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Jan. 31: WanderList program, new COVID protocol and Nebraska influencer

by Hanna Christensen, Ramey Vachal, Lauren Penington and Chloe Schock

Nebraskan social media influencer gets home detention in Jan. 6 case

Brandon Straka, a pro-Trump influencer from Omaha who videoed himself and others during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol, was sentenced to three months of home detention and three years of probation. The court also imposed a $5,000 fine, the maximum fine allowed, and an additional $500 for damage done to the Capitol by the mob. Straka used his social media following of nearly 500,000 people to encourage and defend the attack. Straka admitted in plea papers to urging angry Trump supporters in public speeches and statements to prepare for battle ahead of the attack. Even after leaving the Capitol grounds, he continued to encourage those who remained to “hold the line.” As of Jan. 25, more than 760 people have been charged with federal crimes relating to the Capitol riot, Straka among them.

Nebraska judge upholds Omaha mask mandate

Douglas County District Judge Shelly Stratman declined to overturn Omaha’s mask mandate on Jan. 25 as the state requested, allowing the rule to hold while the lawsuit challenging the mask mandate continues. The state argued that Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse does not have the authority to institute a mandate under her own power without state approval. Huse’s previous requests for the state to institute a mandate were denied. Huse said she believes that Omaha city code gives her the authority to issue a mandate and the judge agreed. Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson disagrees with the judge’s decision and will continue to pursue the lawsuit.

Statewide “WanderList” program encourages people to explore Nebraska

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation launched a statewide travel adventure program encouraging travelers to visit Nebraska museums, libraries, parks and other historical points of interest. Visitors will earn participation prizes along the way. The WanderList booklet will be available for download in April, but physical copies can be preordered on the foundation’s website. For more information and to see the sites included in the program, visit

Nebraska unemployment drops to record low 

The rate of unemployment in Nebraska set record national lows for five consecutive months. The rate declined to 1.7% in December, down from 1.8% in November, maintaining Nebraska’s spot as the state with the lowest rate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nebraska’s December rate is also the lowest on record for any state since data collection began in 1976. Even as the state sets new records, unemployment is lower in the larger cities with Omaha reporting a 1.6% rate and Lincoln reporting 1.1%.

Fortenberry aims to move his trial from California to Nebraska, cites COVID-19

Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s trial on allegations that he lied to the FBI is scheduled to begin in mid-February in Los Angeles. Fortenberry’s attorneys filed a motion to move the trial to Nebraska, citing that California has suspended jury trials for February in light of the rising COVID-19 cases while jury trials in Nebraska are still being conducted. The defense motion also argues a trial in Nebraska would be less expensive than one in California, and most of the witnesses live outside of California.

New COVID protocol and protection measures

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services announced a Hospital Decompression Program intended to help open up more hospital beds and provide free, at-home COVID-19 testing for Nebraskans. DHHS is finalizing a contract with healthcare solutions company eMed to provide 200,000 at-home COVID-19 test kits to Nebraskans. DHHS will work with local health departments to distribute kits throughout the state for pick-up. Additionally, every American is entitled to three, free N95 masks, courtesy of the federal government. The masks will be shipped to local pharmacies and grocery stores that will then distribute them to the public. Hy-Vee stores began distributing masks on Jan. 25 and people can check with their local pharmacies to see when masks will be available.